• Automobile crashes present the highest risk of death for children aged 1 to 12.
  • Proper car seat safety is key for reducing that risk.
  • Certified technicians perform free inspections on National Seat Check Saturday.

Although advancements such as seat belts, airbags and traction control have improved automobile safety tremendously over the past few decades, vehicles continue to present a unique and acute danger to young passengers. Automobile crashes are the biggest killer of kids aged 1 to 12 years, but that doesn't have to be the case. The proper use of a child safety seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, NHTSA estimates that, from 1975 to 2009, 9,310 lives were saved by child safety seats.

Like any piece of safety equipment, using child safety seats correctly is an important part of the equation. The LATCH system, required for nearly every vehicle manufactured since September 2002, is certainly helpful for installing a seat correctly. But getting it right can be tricky, and proper fitment might be easier in some vehicles than others. For parents of young children who have recently purchased a new or used vehicle, getting informed about correct seat installation is a must.

As part of National Child Passenger Safety Week, held September 16-22, certified technicians will perform free inspections. They will give advice as part of National Seat Check Saturday on September 22. Certified technicians from Safe Kids, a network of organizations devoted to preventing accidental injury and death, are performing checks nationwide, and Safe Kids USA also offers a do-it-yourself guide to proper child safety seat use on its website, safekids.org. NHTSA offers inspections year-round. Find a location near you at nhtsa.gov.

Reducing risks means not only choosing the right seat and installing it properly but also using it consistently.

"It's the responsibility of every single parent and caregiver out there to make sure their children are safely restrained--every trip, every time," said Beverly Losman, the director of Safe Kids Georgia. "We are urging everyone to get their child safety seats inspected. When it comes to the safety of a child, this is a small action that can make a big difference."

Safe Kids Georgia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing unintentional injury to children 14 years old and under. It's a member of Safe Kids USA.

Some important car seat safety guidelines include keeping children less than two years old in a rear-facing safety seat installed in the back seat. When a child outgrows that seat, use a forward-facing child safety seat with a 5-point harness until the child is four years old or weighs 40 lb. A booster seat may be used for children over four years old or weighing more than 40 lb. Laws vary from state to state, so safety checks in your area are a good way to confirm safety and compliance with the law.

What it means to you: Reducing the risk that automobile crashes pose to young children involves three important steps: choosing a proper child safety seat, installing it correctly and using it every time the child is in the car.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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