Westwood, MA—Despite overwhelming evidence that child passenger safety seats save lives, 1 in 10 children under age 2 in Massachusetts are not riding in car seats, putting them at risk of serious injury and death, according to a recent AAA analysis of MassDOT IMPACT crash data.
AAA Northeast is highlighting this alarming statistic in recognition of National Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-26) to remind motorists and parents that car crashes are a leading cause of death for children. From 2016 to 2020 in Massachusetts, nearly 5,900 children under age 8 were injured in crashes, with 95 of them suffering serious injuries or dying. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of two children in America under 13 were killed–and 375 injured–on the road every day in 2019.
No single tool improves the odds of surviving a crash more than a properly installed child passenger safety seat. The latest national research shows that more than half of all car seats are installed or being used incorrectly. Sometimes, even well-intentioned parents might be using the wrong seat or seating position for their child’s height and weight.
“No parent intentionally puts their child in harm’s way, but car seat misuse can be the difference between life and death,” said Mark Schieldrop, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Northeast. “Using age-appropriate car seats and installing them correctly is the best way to prevent needless child death on the roadway.”
The most common car seat installation mistakes include:
- Car seats that are too loose when secured in a vehicle.
- Failure to use the car seat’s tether strap along with lower latches or a seat belt in forward-facing seats.
- Not tightening harness straps enough when securing the child in the seat.
- Switching from rear- to forward-facing orientation based on a child’s age instead of weight.
In addition to hosting outreach programs and car-seat check clinics, and promoting media awareness campaigns across our entire territory, AAA Northeast is advocating to strengthen Massachusetts’ child passenger safety laws by filing House Bill 2446 (Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, sponsor) and Senate Bill 1592, (Barry Finegold, D-Andover, sponsor) requiring children to remain rear-facing in their car seats at least until age 2, or until they reach 30 pounds.
Research shows that infants and toddlers can suffer severe and sometimes fatal neck and spinal injuries in forward-facing car seats—even in what many would consider minor crashes. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that all infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Many parents mistakenly believe their children can be turned forward-facing when they reach their first birthday, based on outdated recommendations. Today, we know that children should remain rear-facing as long as possible, and until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat. For some children, that could mean staying rear-facing long past their second birthday.
AAA Northeast is hosting a car seat check this Saturday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at AAA Northeast Headquarters located at 110 Royal Little Drive in Providence. This free event is to help parents and caregivers use the right car seats or seat belts for their children’s ages and sizes. Additionally, education stations will teach caregivers about preventing vehicular heat stroke and how to properly harness dogs in vehicles.
Additional links and resources are available at AAA.com/SafeSeats.