AAA partners with “Busytown” to promote child passenger safety.
By Dennis R. Heinze
Most parents rank safety as their top consideration when buying a car seat for their child, yet the majority of them don’t know how long their child should ride in it or the best place to install it, and many don’t install it correctly, according to AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
AAA has joined forces with Richard Scarry’s “Busytown” to promote the importance of seat belts and child safety seats. Public service announcements air on CBS during the weekend morning kid’s block that airs the popular show “Busytown Mysteries.”
Research shows that seat belts and safety seats–when properly used–are the most effective tools in preventing injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, more than 1,300 children died and more than 190,000 were injured in car crashes in 2008 alone, enough to rank motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death for children in the United States.
AAA is a leading voice in child passenger safety education and advocacy, and this year AAA has partnered with the voices of the timeless characters from “Busytown” of Richard Scarry, one of the best-selling children’s authors of all time, to keep kids safe when traveling by car. To achieve the most impact, the vital message that safety seats save lives is being delivered when parents and children are watching television together.
Public service announcements promoting child passenger safety are airing during the CBS weekend morning kid’s block that airs “Busytown Mysteries.” The announcements emphasize that seat belts and child safety seats, when installed and used correctly, are imperative to prevent death and injury in a car crash.
However, relatively few parents are aware of the guidelines for choosing the appropriate seat for their children. Indeed, in a survey conducted by AAA and the Dorel Juvenile Group, only about one in four respondents could identify proper child safety seat age and height recommendations for safety seats. Moreover, Less than half of parents surveyed (44 percent) knew the safest position for a single car seat was the center of the rear seat.
While an overwhelming majority (92 percent) reported in the survey that they were very or somewhat sure that their current car seat or booster seat was installed correctly, data collected by NHTSA suggests that as many as 75 percent of car seats on the road today are not properly installed.
When seats are used correctly, they are extremely effective in protecting children. From 1975 to 2008, NHTSA research indicates that 8,959 lives were saved by the proper use of child restraints. Even as children outgrow their booster seats and progress to using adult seat belts, AAA recommends that all children 12 years of age or younger ride in the back seat of a vehicle.
To be sure your car seat is installed properly, be sure to read both the car seat manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Just as important as proper installation is making sure you choose the correct type of safety seat. Here are some tips to help you select the appropriate safety seat for your infant or child:
- Rear-facing seats should be used in the back seat from birth into the second year of life. It’s safest to keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible until the upper weight limit of your rear-facing convertible seat, which will be around 35 pounds. At a minimum, your child should be rear-facing until age 1 and 20 pounds.
- Forward-facing toddler seats should be used in the back seat once your child reaches the upper weight or height limit of your rear-facing convertible seat. It is safest to keep your child in a forward-facing seat until they reach the maximum weight (around 40-65 pounds) or the height of the harness.
- Booster seats are used in the back seat from about age 4 to at least age 8, unless your child is 4’9” tall.
- Lap and shoulder safety belts can be used once the seat belt fits properly, which is usually around age 8 or taller than 4’9”. The lap portion of the belt should be low across the child’s hips and upper thighs with the shoulder belt coming across the collarbone and chest.
In today’s highly mobile society, children are traveling more than ever, so it’s important that parents and children understand the facts about passenger safety. The characters from Richard Scarry’s “Busytown” are yet another outlet for AAA to help spread the word.
To find a certified child passenger safety technician who can help make sure you choose the right seat and install it correctly, contact (866) SEAT-CHECK (866-732-8243). In addition, NHTSA has an online inspection station locator at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS.
For more information on child passenger safety and fun games featuring “Busytown” characters, visit AAA.com/SafeSeats4Kids. You can find your local air times on cookiejartv.com and tune in each weekend morning to CBS. For more on best-selling children’s author Richard Scarry, visit BusytownMysteries.com.
Dennis R. Heinze is regional editor for the AAA Southern Traveler.