Keeping our smallest passengers safe on the road

In life, accidents happen. Whether it’s a mistake you made at work, forgetting to pick something up from the grocery store, or leaving the lights on after you were reminded to turn them off.

On the road accidents are bound to happen too. Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year. On average that’s nearly 3,500 deaths a day, and an additional 20 million to 50 million are injured or disabled each year.

Not all accidents are your fault or in your control to avoid, but you can take the proper precautions to help ensure your own and your passengers’ safety.

According to specialists at Griffin Hospital in Derby, car crashes remain at the top of the list for causes of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14.

Many adults are shocked to hear that it can take up to 12 years for their child to be big enough for safety belts — close to five feet tall and between 80 and 100 pounds. Until children reach that size and weight, they need to use car seats or booster seats for both protection in case of a crash and comfort. Your child will take three car seat steps before reaching step four, the safety belt.

The rear-facing car seat is recommended for children until the age of 2, but can change to accommodate a child’s weight and height. When your children outgrow a rear-facing seat around age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Keep the seat in the back and make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower attachment anchors.

After February 2014, many car seat labels tell you exactly how much your child can weigh and still use the car’s lower anchors and car seat attachments (LATCH). Check both your child restraint and vehicle manuals to see if you can go beyond the weight limit for the top tether. If they both agree to a higher weight, it is fine to follow their directions.

Kids can remain in some forward-facing car seats until they’re 65 pounds depending on the car seat limits. Check the seat label to find the exact measurements. Discontinue use of the lower anchors or top tether when your child reaches the limits set by your car seat and car manufacturers.

Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your car seat. Griffin Hospital and Safe Kids regularly hosts car seat safety checks and will have one on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 8 to 10 a.m. in the parking lot of 4 Mountain Street in Derby.