ST. PAUL — Far too many Minnesota parents are not properly securing their children in car seats or using booster seats, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. Of the 30 children (ages 0–7) killed and 4,021 injured during the last five years in the state (2006–2010), only 53 percent of victims were properly secured. (Child crash data, page 2).
“Children are at greatest risk for harm when they are riding in a vehicle,” says Heather Darby, child passenger safety coordinator at the DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “Parents need to take the time to properly secure their child and have them in the correct restraint for their size and age.”
Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week is Sept. 18–24, and DPS is emphasizing the life-saving 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.
Booster seats are required by law in Minnesota. A child is ready for a booster once they have outgrown a forward-facing seat, typically between 40–60 pounds, depending on the seat’s limitations. Children must ride in a booster until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall — whichever comes first. DPS recommends keeping a child in a booster seat based on their height rather than their age.
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. Seat belts should never be wrapped behind the back or tucked under an arm — which is illegal and dangerous.
Darby says parents are often unsure of the restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow: rear-facing infant seats; forward-facing toddler seats; booster seats; seat belts.
Common child passenger safety mistakes:
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.
Child is in the wrong restraint — don’t rush a child into a seat belt.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to visit buckleupkids.mn.gov for more information and to find local car seat inspections.
As a part of CPS Week, DPS is airing the TV PSA “Just as Dangerous” to emphasize the importance of boosters. (Download a .WMV or broadcast-quality file of the PSA).
Minnesota Child Passenger Safety Facts
DPS data reflect the success of child restraints. In Minnesota since 2006, of the 15,000-plus children ages 0–7 involved in traffic crashes, a majority — 86 percent — were properly restrained and not injured, and 12 percent sustained only minor injuries.
Infants–Toddlers (0-3) Fatal and Injury Crash Facts, 2006–2010
21 killed, 11 restrained.
1,821 injured, 1,329 restrained.
DPS officials say since the child seat law became effective in 1982, usage rate for 0–3 year-olds is higher compared to 4–7 year-olds (below).
Booster Age Children (4–7) Fatal and Injury Crash Facts, 2006–2010:
9 killed, only 2 were properly restrained.
2,200 injured, only 38 percent (838) were correctly restrained.
Less than one-half (48 percent) of all 4–7 year olds in crashes were properly restrained in child seats or boosters.