It's Child Passenger Safety Week in the U.S., and before it draws to a close tomorrow, we have a grim statistic to share: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly two children under 13 were killed in auto accidents every day in 2011, and another 338 were injured.
Worst of all, hundreds of those deaths could've been avoided if the children had been in car seats or wearing their seat belts. Unfortunately, more than one-third of them weren't.
Owners of large vehicles seem the most prone to ignore child safety regulations. Perhaps because big SUVs seem safe, SUV drivers are the least likely to ensure that their kids are properly buckled up. Owners of pickups and vans don't perform much better. At the other end of the scale, drivers of conventional cars are most likely to follow safety rules for children.
NHTSA has a number of suggestions for parents and guardians to ensure that their kids ride safely and securely in vehicles:
- Determine if your child is in the right seat for his or her age and size;
- Read the instructions and labels that come with your child's car seat and read the vehicle owner's manual for important information on installing the seat in your particular vehicle;
- Go to your local car seat inspection station to have your seat checked by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician;
- Use the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) restraint system or seat belt to install your car seat and use the top tether to secure forward-facing car seats;
- Register your car seat and booster seat at SaferCar.gov so you will be informed if there is a safety recall on your model; and
- Always wear your seat belt to set a good example. Unbuckled drivers are more likely to have unrestrained children in the car.
For some special tips on accommodating growing kids in your own car -- including when to switch from a car seat to a booster seat, and from a booster seat to a regular adult seatbelt -- check out our rundown of the biggest car-seat mistakes that parents make.