CHARLESTON, WV — Governor Jim Justice has proclaimed September 17-23 as Child Passenger Safety Week in West Virginia. The proclamation was requested by the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), which is working in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as part of the national observation for Child Passenger Safety Week. The week is dedicated to educating parents, grandparents, and caregivers about the importance of correctly choosing, installing, and using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.
“Life is busy for many West Virginia families. Making sure our most precious resource—our children—are as safe as can be when they are passengers in a vehicle is so important. That is why I encourage you to make time this week to double and triple check your child’s car seat or booster seat,” said Gov. Justice.
“We hope that Child Passenger Safety Week will provide an opportunity for parents, grandparents, and caregivers to learn best practices to ensure their child is as safe as possible when in a truck, car, SUV, or van. Parents and grandparents do so much, but this may be one of the most important things they can do,” said Amy Boggs, Child Passenger Safety Program Coordinator for the GHSP.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts 2021 Data, of the 42,939 traffic fatalities in 2021 in the United States, 1,184 (3%) were children 14 and younger. And an average of 3 children were killed and an estimated 445 children were injured every day in traffic crashes in the United States.
“No parent ever wants to get it wrong when it comes to a child’s safety. Don’t wait for a crash to happen to find out if your child’s seat is installed correctly. At that point, it’s too late to check. Don’t guess, know that your child’s seat is installed correctly,” Boggs continued.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, and the latest research from NHTSA shows that nearly half (46%) of car seats are misused. Boggs emphasized that using size- and age-appropriate car seats and installing them correctly are the best ways to reduce these deaths.
Car Seats Versus Booster Seats
There is also a deadly misconception that a certain type of vehicle may offer greater protection for your child. Child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants under 1 year old and by 54 percent for toddlers 1 to 4 years old in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Children are safest when correctly secured in the right car seat or booster seat for their size regardless of the vehicle type. No matter how safe you think your vehicle may be, it is never safe, nor legal, to let your child ride unbuckled.
NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height or weight allowed by the particular seats. It’s the best way to keep them safe. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he or she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat, a child should be placed in a booster seat until she or he is tall enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
It is critical that parents and caregivers ensure that, if a child is too large or too old for a car seat, they are first put into a booster seat until the seat belt can fit correctly. Booster seats are an essential step between car seats and seat belts. These transitional seats position the seat belt, so it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body. Don’t feel pressured to put your child in a seat belt too soon. If your child is ready to use a seat belt, ensure the seat belt fits correctly. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat.
Learn About Car Seat Safety
Child Passenger Safety Week ends with National Seat Check Saturday on September 23, 2023. The GHSP facilitates Child Passenger Safety year-round with fitting stations across West Virginia that are staffed with nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians who have been specifically trained on child car seat installation and best practices. To find a fitting station near you, visit dmv.wv.gov/cps.
Parents and caregivers can access free online resources available at nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats. Notable resources on this site include:
- Car Seat Types
- Car Seat Recommendations
- Find and Compare
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.