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Child Passenger Safety

Every day, Utah emergency room staff treat an average of three children under age nine for injuries due to motor vehicle crashes: that’s nearly 1,100 children per year. The vast majority of these injuries could be prevented. Many children are hurt because they aren’t properly buckled into a car seat or booster seat. Car seats reduce the chance of an infant being killed in a crash by 71% and the risk of a toddler being killed by 54%. Kids in booster seats are also less likely to be killed (54%) or injured (59%) than those who are restrained only by seat belts (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration).

Safety Tips

  • Place children in the back seat in a properly installed child safety seat or booster seat. Infants should be restrained in rear-facing child safety seats for as long as possible. Children should remain rear facing until age 2.
  • Toddlers should ride in forward-facing child safety seats in the back seat until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
  • By Utah law, children must ride in booster seats until age 8.  It’s even safer to keep them in boosters until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall, no matter their age.
  • After age 8, children should always wear a seat belt. Children 12 years of age and younger should continue to ride in the back seat.
  • Use the car seat instruction manual and the vehicle owner’s manual to make sure the car seat is properly installed.
  • Replace any car seats that were in use during a moderate or severe motor vehicle crash (NHTSA). Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. A minor crash is one in which ALL of the following apply:
    • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
    • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged;
    • None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash;
    • If the vehicle has air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash; and
    • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

The Right Seat for your Child

Knowing which car seat or booster seat is right for your child - based on their age, height, and weight - and type of vehicle is critical. Trained child passenger safety technicians are available throughout Utah to help you install your child's safety seat the right way. Find a Child Passenger Safety Technician near you (Utah only)!

Parents are making five serious, but fixable, mistakes when using car seats, according to data from Safe Kids Worldwide and General Motors. Data show 73% of car seats are not being used correctly. To find out why, Safe Kids Worldwide analyzed data from more than 100,000 car seat inspections across the country. The findings found the five most common mistakes were:

  1. Using the wrong seat for the child’s age, weight, and height;
  2. Putting them in the front seat too soon;
  3. Putting them in a forward-facing car seat too early;
  4. Not using the correct lower anchors or top tethers for their seat and vehicle; and
  5. Not tightening the harness straps enough.

Safe Kids Utah urges parents to take 15 minutes and check the following:

  • Right Seat. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height. Also, check the seat’s label to see if it has expired.
  • Right Place. The safest place for children in a vehicle is the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • Right Direction. Keep a child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When the child outgrows the car seat, move him or her to a forward-facing car seat. Use a booster seat until the child properly fits in a seat belt. In Utah, a child must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, usually between ages 8 and 12.
  • Inch Test. Attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
  • Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual to know which slot to use). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess material, the straps are tight enough.   

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