National Child Passenger Safety Week

National Child Passenger Safety Week is recognized from Sept. 15 to 21 to bring awareness of the importance of buckling up kids in car seats, booster seats and seat belts, said Howell County Health Department officials, noting car crashes are the leading cause of death for children.

Car seat check events will be held to educate parents and caregivers about choosing the correct seat for their child's age, weight and developmental levels; installing that seat in the vehicle correctly and using that seat correctly every time.

The West Plains fire and police departments, Ozarks Medical Center and Howell County Health Department will host a seat check event from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the fire station at 1901 Kissinger St. across from city hall.

No appointment is needed; all are invited to drop by to have seats inspected. There will be certified child protective seat technicians on hand to help. Call 256-7078 for more info.

Also recognizing the importance of child seat safety are the Missouri State Highway Patrol, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Ad Council, and the Missouri Department of Transportations’ Office of Highway and Traffic Safety.

According to the patrol, last year in Missouri, 10 children younger than the age of 8 were killed in traffic crashes, and another 1,794 were injured. Troopers issued citations to 1,181 drivers who failed to secure children younger than 8 years old in a child restraint/booster seat, and cited an additional 187 drivers who failed to secure a child 80 pounds or more or over 4 feet, 9 inches in a seat belt.

Troopers investigate traffic crashes every day. Nothing is more disturbing than a traffic crash that includes a child being hurt or killed, say patrol officials. The Missouri State Highway Patrol encourages every driver to make sure child passengers in their vehicles are restrained properly.

Missouri law states children younger than 4 years old are required to use an appropriate child passenger restraint system. Children less than 40 pounds, regardless of age, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for the child. Children ages 4 to 8 years old who weigh at least 40 pounds, but less than 80 pounds, and are under 4 feet, 9 inches tall, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat appropriate for that child.

Children ages 8 through 15 must wear seat belts regardless of the type of vehicle in which they are riding or where they are seated (front or back). Like the child restraint law, this is a primary law, meaning you can be pulled over by law enforcement for noncompliance.

Anyone younger than 18 years of age operating or riding in trucks (regardless of gross weight for which licensed) must wear a seat belt.

No person younger than 18 is allowed to ride in the unenclosed bed of a truck with a licensed gross weight of less than 12,000 pounds on lettered highways, federal, state maintained highways and within city limits. There are exemptions for agricultural purposes, special events and parades.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure passengers younger than 16 are buckled up safely. Those 16 and older are responsible for themselves.

There are many styles of child safety seats from which parents may choose. Infant seats are designed for children up to 22-30 pounds depending on the seat manufacturer. This type of seat should be placed into a vehicle so the infant faces rearward in a semi-reclined position. It is important to remember rear-facing infant seats should NOT be used in a front passenger seat equipped with an active air bag. If deployed, an air bag could hit the infant seat and injure or kill the baby. Airbag or not, the back seat is the safest place for a child.

Convertible child safety seats are designed for children from five pounds up to 40 to 80 pounds, depending on the manufacturer. Like all seats, they have manufacturer’s labels on the side indicating the maximum height and weight of the seat. They recline and face rearward in an infant position, and convert to sit upright and face forward for the toddler position. Most newer convertible seats can hold children who weigh up to 35 or 40 pounds in the rear-facing position. NHTSA recommends keeping children rear facing until they reach the maximum height and weight for the car seat. The child can then be turned around forward facing.

Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown other safety seats and must be used with an adult lap and shoulder belt. Lap/shoulder belts are designed for children who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall or 80 or more pounds. Make sure the lap belt stays low and snug across the lower hip/upper thigh area, and the shoulder belt does not cross the face or the neck.

For safety reasons, the Missouri State Highway Patrol discourages the purchase of child safety seats at a garage sale or other secondhand outlets. Also, a safety seat that has been in a vehicle during a traffic crash should be replaced.

There is no one "safest" child safety seat. Use the one that fits your child, fits in your vehicles correctly, and one that you will use correctly every trip, every time. For more information about the proper use of child restraint systems or to schedule a child safety seat inspection, contact the nearest Missouri State Highway Patrol troop headquarters and ask for the public information and education officer, or visit www.seatcheck.org.

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