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California Area Office logoCalifornia Area Office

Child Passenger Safety

Image of Margo KerriganMargo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

Motor vehicle crashes remain the number one killer of children. However, many of these deaths can be prevented with the proper use of child safety seats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child safety seats reduce fatal injuries by 71% for infants and 54 percent for toddlers (1-4 years old).

One of the biggest problems parents and caregivers are unaware of is the risk to a child's safety when they are not properly restrained in child safety seats. It is estimated that 82% of children who are placed in a child safety seat are improperly restrained. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), more than 80% of the children, under the age of 4, that were killed in crashes since 1990 would have survived if they were buckled up in a child safety seat properly.

California Child Passenger Safety Law

  • California Law requires children be properly secured in a child seat or booster seat until they are at least 6-years old or weighing at least 60 pounds.
  • California Law requires children under 16-years of age but, at least 6-years old or 60 pounds to ride in the following:
    • Child restraint system (car seat, booster, harness, or other product certified to meet federal safety standards).
    • Properly fitted safety belt (lap belt touching the thighs and shoulder belt on the childs shoulder, not under the arm or behind the back.

Child Passenger Safety Tips

  • Make sure every passenger is buckled up for safety and all children are properly restrained
  • Children 12-years old and under should always ride properly secured in the back seat. The front seat is a dangerous location and upon deployment, air bags can seriously hurt or even kill a child.
  • Always follow the child safety seat instruction manual and your motor vehicle owner's manual to ensure proper installation. If you are not sure what kind of safety seat your child needs, check out this quick primer on child passenger safety (produced by the NHTSA and the Buckle Up America campaign) http://www.boosterseat.gov/CPSpostcard.pdf  Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov (PDF 116KB), then have your seat inspected at a safety inspection station, by a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, to ensure your seat is properly installed. Safety inspection stations are located throughout California. To make an appoint at an inspection station in your area call 1-866-732-8243 or visit http://www.seatcheck.org Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
  • Child safety seats and vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002 are equipped with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tether for Children). The bottom of the safety seat is connected by straps with hooks to two bars in the crack of the vehicle seat cushion. If LATCH is not available on both the safety and the selected seating position in the vehicle, use the vehicle belt instead. In either case, the top tether strap should be attached for forward-facing seats.

    Seating Your Child Safely

    Infants (birth to 12-months of age) - Should ride in the back seat of the car, rear-facing in an infant-only or rear facing convertible seat until they are at least one year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds.

  • Harness straps are at or below the infant's shoulder and fit snugly against the infant without slack. You should not be able to pinch the strap between your thumb and finger.
  • Harness chest clip placed at the infant's armpit level, to keep harness straps positioned properly on the infant's shoulders.

    Children (1-4 years of age) - May ride in a forward-facing child safety seat. They should continue to ride is a safety seat with a harness, in the back seat of the car, until they weigh 40 pounds (usually around the age of 4).

  • Harness straps are threaded through top slots, unless instructions indicate center slots may be used for forward facing.
  • Harness straps are at or above the shoulder of child and fit snugly against the child without slack. You should not be able to pinch the strap between your thumb and finger.
  • Harness chest clip placed at the child's armpit level, to keep harness straps positioned properly on the child's shoulders.

    Children (4-8 years of age) - Must ride in the back seat of the car in a booster seat and be restrained with a lap/shoulder belt. Take the 5-Step Test below. If you answer "no" to any of the following questions, your child must use a booster seat:

    1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
    2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
    3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
    4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
    5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
  • If your car only has lap belts (no shoulder belts) in the back seat, you cannot use a booster seat.

    For additional information, please contact Robert Newsad, California Area Injury Prevention Specialist, at (916) 930 - 3981 Ext. 337

    Other Safety Links

    Safe Kids USA
    http://www.safekids.org/members/unitedStates.html Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    Center for Injury Prevention Policy and Practice
    http://www.cippp.org/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    California Department of Health Services, State and Local Injury Control (EPIC/SLIC)
    http://www.dhs.ca.gov/epic Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
    http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

    NHTSA Booster Seat Information
    http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.9f8c7d6359e0e9bbbf30811060008a0c/ Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
     

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