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Child Passenger Safety

Is Your Child at Risk?



As a parent, you want to keep your child safe at all times. While kids of all ages should be buckled up, four out of five children are not properly buckled into their seats. The guidance below will help you make sure that your child rides in the correct type of car seat. You should select a car seat based on your child’s age and size and whether that seat fits properly in your vehicle. Choose a car seat that you can install and use correctly every time.

Choose the right car seat

Children under the age of 1 must always ride rear-facing.

Children ages 1 through 3 should ride rear-facing for as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep children safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he can travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.

Children ages 4 through 7 should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time for her to travel in a booster seat that’s placed in the back seat of the car.

Children ages 8 through 12 should ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should
lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember that your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

Guidelines for safe buckling

Rear-facing

  • Keep the harness straps snug and below the child’s shoulder level.
  • Make sure the clip used to hold the straps is placed at your child’s armpit level.
  • For infants, recline the rear-facing seat to a 45-degree angle. As they get older, the seat can be reclined between 30 and 45 degrees.

Forward-facing

  • Make sure the harness goes through the slots or is above shoulder level.
  • The clip should rest at armpit level.

Booster seat

  • If the car seat with a harness still fits and your child is within the weight and height limits, continue to use it until it is outgrown. It provides more protection for a small child than does a booster seat or seat belt.
  • The shoulder belt should fit snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck. Ensure that your child does not put the shoulder belt behind his back.
  • Once the middle of the back of your child’s head is above the top of the high-back booster seat, it’s safe to move her out of the booster seat and to start using a regular seat belt.

It’s the law

Until they reach 8 years of age or weigh 65 pounds — whichever comes first — all children must be properly restrained in a federally approved child-safety seat appropriate for their age, weight and height. Children over 8 years of age who weigh more than 65 pounds are required to be properly buckled in with a safety belt. If the front passenger seat airbag is active, the law requires children under 12 years old or 65 inches in height to sit in the back seat. To provide your child with the maximum protection, you should follow the law and the safety guidelines outlined above.

To make sure your child’s car seat is not one of the four out of five car seats installed incorrectly, you can have it inspected at one of these local Child Restraint Fitting Stations:

  • Christiana Care’s SAFE KIDS Fitting Station at Christiana Hospital, Newark
  • A.I. DuPont Fitting Station at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington
  • Car Seat Certified of Delaware at Buckley’s Auto Care, Wilmington
  • OHS Fitting Station at Dover DMV, Dover

For more information, contact the Delaware Office of Highway Safety at 302-744-2740, visit Ohs.delaware.gov or follow the DOHS on Facebook or Twitter.

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