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Motor vehicle crashes are one of the primary causes of death and injury to children four years of age and younger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that safety seats are 71% effective in preventing fatalities, 67% effective in reducing the need for hospitalization and 50% effective in preventing minor injury.
If you transport children under the age of five in your car, you should ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does your child ride in the back seat?
- The back seat is generally the safest place in a crash.
- If your vehicle has a passenger air bag, it is essential for children 12 and under to ride in the back seat.
2. Does your child ride facing the right way?
- Babies should ride in a rear-facing position up to at least age one and 20 pounds.
- Children over age one and at least 20 pounds may ride in a forward-facing position.
3. Does the safety belt hold the seat tightly in place?
- Put the belt through the proper slot.
- The safety belt must stay tight around the safety seat.
- Some shoulder belts that don't lock tightly into place will need a locking clip in order to correctly install the seat using a shoulder belt. Click here to see an example (page 21).
4. Is the harness buckled snugly around your child?
- Keep the straps over your child’s shoulder. The harness should be adjusted so that you can slip only one finger underneath the straps at your child’s chest. Place the chest clip at armpit level.
5. Does your child over 40 pounds have the best protection possible?
- Keep your child in a safety seat as long as possible, at least until a weight of 40 pounds. By 2007 Oregon State law, children who weigh over 40 pounds must be properly secured in a booster seat until they are age 8 OR 4'9" in height.
- A booster seat without a shield is preferred. It is used with lap and shoulder belts. A booster with a shield is used if your car has only lap belts in back.
How should a safety belt fit an older child?
The child must be tall enough to sit without slouching, with knees bent at the edge of the seat. The lap belt must fit low and snug across the upper thighs. The shoulder belt should fit over the shoulder and across the chest. Never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back.
Never use a booster seat with only a lap belt! Although two shoulder belts have been required in vehicle back seats since 1989, many families have cars with lap-only belts in the center or older cars with no rear shoulder belts.
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