It happens all too frequently on Missouri roadways. Emergency crews respond to the scene of an accident and the victim is a child who was not properly buckled in. While the cause of an accident may not be preventable, experts say proper use of safety seats can reduce the number of injuries and deaths of children.
Car crashes are the number-one killer of children one to 12 years old in the United States. In 2011, 12 children in Missouri under the age of eight were killed, and 1,778 were injured in traffic crashes.
"Appropriate car seats are very important for kids' safety. Missouri law requires all children under eight to be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat, unless they are at least 80 pounds or 4 feet 9 inches tall," said Leanna Depue, executive committee chair for the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. "It's also very important to change seats to accommodate their growing bodies."
Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse recalls one incident several years ago that he says the use of a child safety seat undoubtably saved a child’s life.
“There was a fatality where a train hit a mother’s car and she had a child in the back seat,” said Kearse. He explained the car was crossing the railroad tracks at the Rolla Street crossing and the car was pushed all the way to the Sixth Street crossing. Sadly, the mother was killed in the crash, but the 6-8-month-old baby in the back seat in a car seat survived the crash without a scratch.
“I’m 100 percent sure, if the child had not been in a safety seat it would have been killed,” said Kearse.
Having a safety seat is not enough, you need to make sure it is correctly installed and you know how to properly strap your child in.
The wide range of car seat models on the market today leaves more than a few parents confused. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study revealed that nearly 75 percent of parents don't know how to use child safety restraints properly. Child Passenger Safety Technicians in Missouri report an even higher misuse rate.
The Rolla Fire and Rescue Department conducts child safety seat inspections at both stations. All Rolla firefighters are nationally certified as Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs) through Safe Kids, USA.
The department has installed and checked nearly 100 child safety seats this summer.
"Properly securing your child in a safety seat is about more than following the law though," Depue said. "Safety seats prevent serious injuries and could save your child's life.”
Lake Ozark Police Chief Mark Maples said in 23 years he has never removed an injured child from a car seat during a vehicle crash.
The Rolla Fire Department has free car seats available to those who might need assistance acquiring one. Car seats for that program are received from two separate grant sources: MODOT and PCCAN.
Page 2 of 2 - For more information about that program, please contact Lynette Manley at the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue Administrative Office by calling (573) 364-3989.
Ten tips to keep your child safe
1. Safety experts recommend that children ride rearward-facing in the vehicle until they are two years old or until they reach either the height or weight limit of their rear facing child safety seat.
2. Infant carriers are only used rearward-facing in the vehicle. Convertible child seats can be used either rearward-facing or forward-facing in the vehicle. Convertible child seats often have a higher weight limit in the rearward-facing direction than infant carriers do, so they can be used rearward-facing by children who have outgrown their infant carrier but are still less than at least two years old. Children should remain rearward-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their convertible child seat.
3. Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of a passenger air bag.
4. Children who are two years old or who have outgrown their rear-facing convertible child seat can ride forward-facing in the vehicle. Forward-facing child seats and convertible child seats used in the forward-facing direction are for children who are over two years old or who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit of their rear-facing convertible child seat. Children should remain in a forward-facing child seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the child seat.
5. All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for the child seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belts fit properly. If the child cannot sit with knees bent over the vehicle's seat cushion while the child's back is against the seatback, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat.
6. After outgrowing a booster seat, children under age 13 should always use a seat belt and ride in the back seat. Remember, kids of all ages are safest when properly restrained in the back seat.
7. Old/used child safety seats should not be used unless you are certain they have never been in a crash and you have all the parts (including instructions). Seats that are six years old or older should be discarded and never used.
8. Always read both the vehicle owner's manual and the instructions that come with the child safety seat.
9. It is important to remember that the "best" child safety seat is the one that correctly fits the child, the vehicle, and is used correctly every time.
10. Get your child's safety seat checked!