ST. PAUL — This year marks 30 years since Minnesota first passed its child passenger safety laws in 1982. That year, less than 20 percent of the 11 infants (ages 0-3) killed in crashes were known to be properly restrained in a child safety seat, and only 22 percent of the 387 injured were restrained.
The success of the car seat laws and increased use of child restraints has made a dramatic impact on child safety over the years, according to Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety data:
In Minnesota since 2007, more than 15,000 children ages 0–7 were properly restrained and involved in traffic crashes, and a majority of those children (86 percent) were not injured and 12 percent sustained only minor injuries.
In the last decade: of the 32 children ages 0–7 were killed in crashes and only 44 percent were properly restrained.
“There is no debate when it comes to the benefits of child seats,” says Heather Darby, child passenger safety programs coordinator at DPS. “Parents and caregivers have a huge responsibility to ensure their children are safe when they ride and step one is using the right seat that’s correctly installed.”
Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 16–22
Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week is Sept. 16–22, and DPS is emphasizing the importance of correct child safety restraint and booster seat use to keep children safe while riding in a vehicle. In Minnesota, three out of four child restraints are used incorrectly — meaning children are riding in the wrong restraint or it is not properly secured.
Parents and caregivers may visit buckleupkids.mn.gov for instructional videos for installing and using various car seats, and to find a local car seat check location.
Common Child Passenger Safety Mistakes
Officials find these common safety seat errors:
Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward-facing restraint too soon.
Restraint is not secured tight enough — it should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
Harness on the child is not tight enough — if you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
Retainer clip is up too high or too low — should be at the child’s armpit level.
The child is in the wrong restraint — don’t rush your child into a seat belt.
Child Passenger Seat Steps for Children
A child should progress through different safety restraints as they age and grow:
- Rear-facing infant seats — Newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds. Recommended up to age two. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.
- Forward-facing toddler seats — Age 2 until around age 4. It’s preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint as long as possible.
- Booster seats — From age 4 until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.
- Seat belts — A child is ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor. Children 4 feet 9 inches tall or more can correctly fit in a lap/shoulder belt.
Booster Seats — Helping Seat Belts Fit Kids Correctly
In Minnesota, children must start riding in a booster seat once they have outgrown forward-facing seats, typically age 4. It is safest for children to ride in a booster until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.
Booster seats lift a child up so seat belts fits them properly. Poor seat belt fit can contribute to serious injury, ejection and death in traffic crashes. A sign that a seat belt does not fit properly and a booster is still needed is if the child wraps the shoulder belt behind them or tucks it under their arm to avoid the belt rubbing against their neck. Fines for not using booster seats vary, but average around $50.
Booster-Age Children (4–7) Fatal and Injury Crash Facts, 2007–2011 in Minnesota:
- Of 11 killed, only three (27 percent) were properly restrained.
- Of 2,120 injured, only 918 (43 percent) were properly restrained.
- Of 5,847 who were properly restrained and involved in a crash, 84 percent were not injured.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements, and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for motorcycle safety programs and child seats for needy families.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Office of Traffic Safety Highlights
- In September, OTS media campaigns focus on ignition interlock; distracted driving and child passenger safety. National Child Passenger Safety Week is Sept.16–22.
- The annual Toward Zero Deaths conference is in Bloomington, Oct. 22-24.
- 1,842 impaired drivers were arrested for DWI during statewide campaign, Aug. 17–Sept. 3.
- 23,285 speeders were ticketed during a July statewide speed campaign.
- OTS issued the 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report, citing 368 traffic deaths for the year, the lowest since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction in deaths from a decade ago.
- More than 4,000 DWI offenders are using ignition interlock to benefit road safety and ensure legal, sober driving.
- Media are encouraged to download and broadcast or place OTS public service announcements to advance road safety.
- Media are encouraged to localize traffic safety news by referencing county-specific crash facts.