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Child safety: Is your baby properly secured in the car seat when an auto accident occurs?

How to prevent child injury and save lives during National Child Passenger Safety Week

This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week. I realize most of my readers aren’t lawyers and don’t handle car accident cases for a living, but please read-on. This topic is very important to me and I want to do everything I can to share it with my friends, readers and all Michigan drivers.

As a personal injury lawyer, I’ve handled car accident cases involving children who were seriously injured – and killed – because their car seats were not installed properly. Some of these children are still disabled, and their young lives will never been the same. All serious car accident cases are heartbreaking, but there is something about a young child, especially in what may have been a preventable car accident, that really strikes home.

Consider the following:

* Car accidents are the leading cause of death for young people between the ages 3 to 14 (based on 2006 figures, which are the latest mortality data currently available from the National Center for Health Statistics).

* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that close to three out of four parents do not properly use child restraints. Three out of four!

There is a better way to protect your child from injury or death in car accidents

If used properly, child safety seats (car seats, booster chairs, etc.) in cars and trucks reduce the risk of fatal injury by up to 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists four easy steps to protect our children regarding the proper way to secure them in car seats. For each of these instructions, it’s imperative that parents always read the child seat instruction manual. Each manufacturer provides specific instructions regarding proper use and installation of their child car seats.

1. Rear-facing car seats infants: From birth to at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds

For the best possible protection, keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

2. Forward-facing car seats for toddlers: From age 1 and 20 pounds to age 4 and 40 pounds
When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).

3. Booster seats for children – From about age 4 to at least age 8
Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9″ tall).

4. Seat belts for tweens: From age 8 and older
When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9″ tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).

If you’re still not sure whether your child’s car seat is installed properly, you can use this locator to find a child safety seat inspection site. Fire stations and police departments in cities across Michigan – such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw – are waiting to help you prevent child injury.

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers in serious car and truck accident personal injury lawsuits and auto insurance No-Fault litigation. He writes extensively about safe driving and auto accident law, and is available for comment.

Related information about child safety in Michigan:

Tips for safe driving in Michigan

Top five hazardous actions by teen drivers

Traffic safety tips for avoiding child injury in car accidents

Michigan Auto Law is the leading and largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. Our lawyers have received the largest reported jury verdict for an auto accident case in Michigan in six of the past nine years, including 2009, according to published reports. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with an personal injury lawyer – anytime. We can help.

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