Child Passenger Safety Week was observed last week, from September 17th-23rd. Though the week is now behind us, the safety precautions and awareness recognized for Child Passenger Safety Week can always be implemented and practiced on a daily basis.
Even as such a critical issue, the risks and dangers to child passengers don’t make the news as often as other threats on the road like drunk driving, distracted driving, or even excessive speeding. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that the leading cause of death for children is car crashes.
The following are just a handful of statistics, also provided by the NHTSA . Statistics are from the year 2015, unless otherwise stated:
- An estimated 116,000 children under 13 years were injured as passengers in car crashes.
- The age group from 8-12 had the highest number of fatalities (236) among children.
- One-third of children under 13 killed in car crashes were not restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.
- From 2011-2015, 1,692 children between the ages of 8-14 years were killed in passenger vehicles.
- Among children younger than 5, car seats saved about 248 lives. 316 children could have survived if they had been buckled up 100% of the time.
- 59% of the time, a car seat is not installed properly.
Consider why child passenger safety laws are in place: most vehicle safety belts are a poor match for children, as they’re generally designed for a 165lb male adult.
Because child passenger safety is such a concern, parents or those transporting children must observe the laws regarding child passenger safety. Non-compliance with these laws is considered a standard offense.
The following is a list of current California laws in place, as listed by the CHP:
- Rear-facing seats are required for children under 2 years of age, unless the child is 40+ pounds or 40”+ tall. The child can be secured in a manner that is compliant with the height and weight specifications outlined by the manufacturer of the car seat. (CA Vehicle Code Section 27360).
- Children under 8 years old must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
- Children 8 years of age or 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but minimally, must be secured by a safety belt. (California Vehicle Code Section 27363).
- Anyone 16+ years of age is subject to California’s Mandatory Seat Belt Law.
The CHP also has recommendations for transitioning a child from a 5-point harness to a booster seat. They suggest keeping your child in their safety seats for as long as possible, since transitioning them to the next level does reduce the amount of protection offered. A booster seat can replace a child car seat when the weight or height limit has been surpassed, typically between 40lbs – 60lbs.
If you plan on traveling and driving through states, it’s a good idea to ensure your safety practices are compliant with the appropriate state. Ignorance is not an excuse.
AAA gives an overview of basic child safety laws for each state. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) also offers a directory for each state’s transportation and safety websites.
In a commuter state like California, driving is such a commonplace task that many people become comfortable in their road routines. Additionally, when it comes to having children and car seats, many parents may have good intentions but mistakes with serious consequences are still made too often.
For car seats, the best advice is to enlist the help of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Installation is free of charge, and could very well be a matter of life or death. Check the Area Office locator on the CHP website and ask to speak with a child passenger safety technician when contacting them.
There is a wealth of information online to help keep your child safe and your car compliant with child safety seat laws. The NHTSA offers a useful guide covering topics on different kinds of car seats, how to choose the right type, and also which ones will fit in your vehicle.
Not all car seats fit in all vehicles, so make sure you consider the size of your vehicle or vehicles you plan to transport your children.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.
Check out these references for further reading:
“Car Seats and Booster Seats.” NHTSA. Retrieved 21 September 2017, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#inspection-inspection
“Child Safety Seats”. CHP. Retrieved 21 September 2017, from https://www.chp.ca.gov/Programs-Services/Programs/Child-Safety-Seats
“Digest of Motor Laws: Child Passenger Safety”. AAA. Retrieved 21 September 2017 from http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/child-passenger-safety/.
“State Highway Safety Offices.” Governor Safety Highway Association. Retrieved 21 September 2017. http://www.ghsa.org/about/shsos