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Charles J. Zauzig III

Keeping Your Child Safe in the Car

More than 40,000 child passengers under the age of four will be injured or killed in car crashes this year.  While some of these injuries will occur because the parents have simply neglected to belt their children in, many others will occur because the parents have improperly adjusted the child’s safety seat.


Virginia has recently instituted new age requirements for children riding in booster seats.  Effective July 1, 2007, all children under the age of eight must be properly restrained.  Children under the age of five must be in a child safety seat. 


The new law also requires that rear-facing child safety seats may only be placed in the back seat.  If the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child may only ride in the front if the airbag has been deactivated.  This new law is based on a 1993 Center for Disease Control recommendation that all children under 20 pounds or 1 year old should ride in rear facing seats.  Those seats are not suitable for passenger-side airbags because of the force with which the airbag deploys.  A subsequent CDC study found several cases in which infants were killed by airbags while riding in backward facing child safety seats.


The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers this list of state sites where you can have your child passenger seat inspected by safety professionals.  At these sites, trained safety professionals will either inspect your child’s seat or install it for you.


The Center for Disease Control recommends that all children under the age of 12 ride in the car’s back seat.  Additionally, the NHTSA recommends that all children under 4’9” be restrained in a safety seat, regardless of their age.


According to the Center for Disease Control, proper restraint of infants reduces the risk of death in a passenger car by 71%.  The proper restraint of toddlers aged 1 to 4 years reduces their risk of death by 54%.


Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers this list of safety tips for child passengers.