Child Passenger Safety
Motor vehicles crashes are the leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 14 and under.
Vehicle seat belts are designed for the comfort and protection of an adult-sized body. Child safety seats, when used and installed correctly, can prevent injury and often death.
Unrestrained or improperly restrained children are more likely to be injured, to suffer more severe injuries, and to die in motor vehicle crashes, than children who are properly restrained.
Misuse of child safety seats is widespread. It is estimated that nearly 4 out of 5 children who are placed in child safety seats are improperly restrained.
There are many tools parents and caregivers can use to help reduce the risk of injury and death to children who ride in vehicles. It is important to have and use the proper Child Restraint System for children riding in vehicles-commonly referred to as Child Safety Seats. Child Safety Seats are not just baby car seats, they are devices that are developed, designed, and produced to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Crash Tests. When used correctly, it is a device that helps you “ Transport your most precious cargo safely” – your child.
Illinois Law – The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act references any person transporting a child in this State, under the age 8, in a non-commercial motor vehicle. Such person shall be responsible for the protection of such a child by properly securing him or her in an appropriate child restraint system. (Note: to read the complete Act reference Illinois Complied Statues (625 ILCS 25/))
The Chicago Police Department – Child Passenger Safety Program
Each police district has police officers who have successfully completed the National Child Passenger Safety Program certification-training course.
Parents and/or caretakers can call their local district police station or call “311” to locate their neighborhood Police District CAPS office and schedule an appointment to have their child safety seat inspected.
To prepare for their safety seat inspection, parents and caretakers should perform the following:
- Install their child safety seat in their vehicle and bring their child with them for the inspection, if possible.
- Bring the instruction booklet for their child safety seat and their vehicle. If the instruction booklet is not available, contact the manufacture or visit the manufacturer’s web site for the booklet information.
- Know their child’s current weight and height. The Police Officer inspecting your child safety seat will rely on the information you furnish about your child. Police Officers do not have the ability to weigh your children.
What you can expect at your inspection:
- Officers will complete and require you to sign an inspection form.
- The officer will inspect your child safety seat installation. In addition, the officer will advise you of any corrections needed.
- The officer will explain and demonstrate the correct use and installation of your child safety seat. You will be required to repeat the installation of your child safety seat, in your vehicle, at the inspection site.
- You should leave your inspection site feeling secure and confident with transporting your child – your most precious cargo
Children ages 12 and under should ride in the back seat of vehicles.
Infants, from birth to at least one year of age and that weigh up to 20 pounds, should ride in the back seat of the vehicle in a rear-facing child safety seat. Children less than one year of age and that weigh over 20 pounds, should ride in vehicles in the rear-facing position. Several child safety seats are available that will accommodate children who weigh over 20 pounds in the rear-facing position.
CAUTION: A rear facing child safety seat should NEVER be positioned in front of an active passenger air bag.
Types of rear facing child safety seats:
- 1. Infant only rear facing seat
- 2. Convertible seat used rear facing
Children over one year of age and at least 20 pounds, may ride in a forward-facing child safety seat in the back seat. Children should ride in a safety seat with full harness until they weigh about 40 pounds or the maximum weight limit for the harness. The weight limits for the harness use is printed on the label located on that particular seat.
Types of forward facing seats:
- Convertible seat used forward facing
- Forward facing High Back Booster seat with internal harness
All children who have outgrown child safety seats should be in a booster seat until they are at least 8 years old and at least are 4’9” in height.
Belt positioning boosters should only be used with both the lap and shoulder belt across the child. The shoulder belt should be snug against the child’s chest, resting across the collarbone. The lap belt should lay low across the child’s upper thigh area.
Types of belt positioning booster seats:
- High Back belt positioning seat without internal harness
- No Back or Backless belt positioning booster seat
NOTE: Always read the child seat manual and the vehicle owner’s manual, child seat section for directions on proper installation of the child safety seat.
A child can be moved from a booster seat to a vehicle’s factory installed back-seat safety belt, only after passing the Safety Belt Fit Test. Return your child to a booster seat if the safety belt does not fit perfectly.
Safety Belt Fit Test
- Have your child sit all the way back on the vehicle’s seat, and ask yourself the following question – “Do his or her knees bend at the front edge of the seat?” If they bend naturally, go to #2. If they do not, return your child to the booster seat.
- Buckle the lap and shoulder belt. Be sure the lap belt lies on the upper legs or hips. If it does, go to #3. If it lies on the stomach, return your child to the booster seat.
- Make sure the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collarbone. If it does, go to #4. If it is on the face or neck, return your child to the booster seat. NOTE : Never put the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind the child’s back.
- Check whether your child maintains the correct seating position for as long as you are in the car. If your child slouches or shifts positions so the safety belt touches the face, neck or stomach, return your child to the booster seat.
What is the Best Child Safety Seat?
- The one that states that it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
- The one that fits your child.
- The one you can easily be installed in your vehicle correctly, every time.
Your child is counting on you to protect him or her! Make sure your child always rides safely in your car. In addition, prepare older children to “think safety” if they are ever in a car where no car seat or booster seat is available.
Make sure they know how to protect themselves by sitting in a back seat and using a factory installed safety belt. Fifty percent of children who died in 2004 in motor vehicles were completely unrestrained. Do not let your child become a statistic.
For the best protection on every ride, use a car seat or booster seat, based on your child’s age, weight and height. In addition, remember to buckle yourself – every time – in every vehicle. Your child will do as you do!
For more information on Child Passenger Safety, visit the following links:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: www.nhtsa.dot.gov
- The Illinois Complied Statues: www.ilga.gov
- SafeKids Worldwide: www.safekids.org