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Is your child’s car seat properly installed?
By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Pick up any child safety seat draped with a half-dozen straps, buckles and buttons, and it’s easy to see why four out of five aren’t installed correctly in cars. This means most children aren’t firmly connected to their car’s safety system and could go flying – and die – if they are in an accident.

“Car crashes remain the No. 1 killer of America’s children between the ages of 2 and 14,” said Andrew Turnage, public information coordinator with the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute, or GTIPI, an outreach unit of University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

“While more than 90 percent of parents use child safety seats, the most common thing is that car seats are not installed correctly,” he said.

Based in Conyers, Ga., near Atlanta, GTIPI employees frequently see the other 10 percent of children, he said, or the ones not protected from car wrecks, even with an incorrectly installed car seat.

“The first common image that comes to mind is of children standing in the seat looking right at you through the car window,” Turnage said. “We also see mothers who are just holding their infant children in their laps. It’s frequent here in the metro area – and even more so in rural areas.”

Children who are not placed in safety seats are three times more likely to be injured in a crash than their correctly buckled peers, he said. Studies prove that child safety seats can reduce the risk of a fatal injury by more than half.

Holding children in the car won’t protect them in an accident. In fact, in a crash involving a car traveling at 50 miles per hour, which is lower than the speed limit on most highways, a 20-pound baby generates the force of a 1,000-pound object.

“It’s like trying to grab and hold on to a 1,000-pound weight that a weightlifter just hurled at you. Trying to catch that would be almost impossible for the average person,” he said.

If the driver isn’t buckled in, a car crash can crush the child between the driver and the car, he said.

To get the message out about protecting children while they’re in cars, the institute and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are observing National Child Passenger Safety Week Sept. 12-18 to remind parents and grandparents to properly buckle their children.

“In this economy, many people are working longer hours and second jobs,” Turnage said. “Grandparents are frequently transporting children for parents during the day. We hope to educate them about correct installation.”

Children in rural areas are more likely to die from improper child safety seat use than are children from big cities. That’s why the institute doesn’t just base its programming in metro Atlanta. It reaches across the state to educate caregivers.

GTIPI teaches the Safe Kids World Wide’s national training to certify child passenger safety technicians, who then teach parents and grandparents how to install the seats correctly.

Many places also have people who can check to see if a car seat is properly installed. These include Georgia State Patrol posts, sheriff’s offices, police departments, fire departments and some health departments and hospitals. For details on child safety seat check events and inspection stations in your community, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org or www.ridesafegeorgia.org.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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