Last year, the Charleston Post and Courier reported that nearly 1,000 people died in car involved accidents on SC roads in 2016, many of them children. Of the over 600 who were vehicle passengers, nearly HALF were not wearing the seat belts and proper restraints. As you can see, when not properly restrained by a seat belt or car seat, children’s chances of surviving an accident drop significantly.
In fact, even when restrained but restrained improperly, major and deadly injuries occur from the seat belts. Remember, incorrect restraint can be almost as dangerous as no restraint.
However, reducing road deaths is as simple as A, B, C.
A – Get the APPROPRIATE seat for your child’s age according to law.
B – BUCKLE up properly.
C – Install your car seat in the CAR correctly.
Choosing the Appropriate Seat for Your Child’s Age
Ages 2 years and younger:
Children two years old and younger must be in a rear-facing car seat until the child exceeds the height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the seat.
The reason for this is because a rear-facing car seat reduces the force put on a child’s head and neck during a crash. According to multiple studies, children are five times safer if they’re rear-facing rather than forward-facing.
A child who is two (or outgrows the rear-facing seat according to the seat’s instructions), must be in a forward-facing car seat until at least age 4 or until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing child passenger seat.
A child at least four years of age who has outgrown his forward-facing child passenger restraint system must be in a booster seat secured by both lap and shoulder belts. Children must also ride in the back seat until they reach 8 years old.
Ages 8 & up:
An 8 year old who is at least 57 inches tall may sit using a seat belt in the back seat. They may also ride in the front seat. (The age for this was previously 6 yrs old.)
You will know they can safely wear a seat belt if:
(1) The lap belt fits across the child’s thighs and hips and not across the abdomen.
(2) The shoulder belt crosses the center of the child’s chest and not the neck.
(3) The child can sit with his back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with his knees bent over the vehicle’s seat edge without slouching.
There is an exception for those children with special medical/physical needs:
For medical reasons that are substantiated with written documentation from the child’s physician, advanced nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, a child who is unable to be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system may be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system designed for his medical needs.
Basically, this is all because of where the straps are when they child isn’t the right size. On impact or hard breaking, when the straps fall on the wrong places, they can lacerate a liver, break ribs, or cause other internal damage. These injuries can lead to massive internal bleeding and even death. The ages in the law were changed so the seat belts do not hurt children.
To view the complete text of the new law, visit the Buckle Up, South Carolina website.
How to Buckle Your Child Properly
It is important to make sure you buckle your child into their seat correctly to prevent injuries.
- Make sure to properly position the harness on your child. The straps should lie flat and not be twisted. Straps should also be routed through the hole that is at or below your child’s shoulders for a rear facing seat OR at or above their shoulders for a forward facing seat.
- Buckle the harness and close the chest clip. Tighten the harness straps and move the chest clip up so the top of the clip lines up at armpit level.
- Check to see that the harness is snug by doing the “pinch test.” You should not be able to pinch a horizontal fold in the harness at the child’s collar bone.
In order to ensure the seat belt properly fits when your child is in a booster seat, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Because booster seats are held in place by the child’s weight and vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belts and not strapped in the way a car seat is, it is especially important to ensure the correct seat belt fit.
Ensuring Your Seat in the Car is Installed Correctly
Finally, make sure the car seat or booster seat is fastened in the car correctly.
My husband, who is a first responder, responded to a call one night for a car accident. He spent an hour searching the woods off the shoulder of the road looking for a car seat. The force from the accident had thrown the car seat from the vehicle because it was not properly secured in place.
To prevent this from happening to your child, follow the instructions on your child’s car seat on how to properly install it. You can also drive to one of the many Safety Seat Fitting Stations South Carolina offers.
Stay safe out there! There are some crazy drivers.