In marking National Child Passenger Safety Week, PennDOT is reminding parents and caregivers to get back to basics and review car seat safety for their children.
This week, parents and caregivers are encouraged to visit a fitting station to have their seats checked by a trained technician for proper installation and use.
"Events being held this week are a perfect time to give yourself the extra peace of mind and have your seat checked by a professional," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "Keeping children safe while they are traveling is a major responsibility and we are committed to helping parents and guardians."
PennDOT provides funding for approximately 170 child passenger safety fitting stations, which checked more than 5,000 seats last year. PennDOT found eight out of 10 child safety seats checked at these fitting stations last year were being used improperly. The three major types of misuse included:
Incorrect harness use with the harness being too loose, routed incorrectly or twisted.
Incorrect seat selection as the wrong child safety seat was being used for the child's age, weight, height or physical development and behavioral needs.
Incorrect installation that the seat was not correctly installed on the vehicle seat using a seat belt or the LATCH system.
Last year on Pennsylvania roads, seven children from newborns up to age eight lost their lives and more than 2,100 were injured in crashes. To increase your child's chances of surviving a crash, officials encourage you to get back to basics on car seat safety.
The basics of child passenger safety start with the state's primary child passenger safety law, which requires children up to age four to be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat.
The law also requires infants to be rear-facing until they reach one year of age and 20 pounds. However, for increased injury protection, safety advocates now recommend keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible up to the maximum height or weight limit of the car seat.
Children from age four up to age eight are required by the state's booster seat law to be properly restrained in an appropriate booster seat. Children may need to stay in a booster seat past age eight since seat belts do not fit properly if they weigh less than 80 pounds or are shorter than four-feet, nine inches.
In 2009, nearly 5,000 drivers were cited for violating these laws, resulting in a $100 fine plus associated costs.
Once a child outgrows the booster seat, state law requires that children up to age 18 must be secured in a seat belt system anywhere in the vehicle. Violators of this law are subject to a $10 fine plus associated costs.
A portion of these child passenger safety fines is deposited in the child safety seat loaner program, which provides car seats to families in need. PennDOT's loan program provided more than 500 child safety seats to families last year.
When choosing a car seat, safety advocates remind parents that not every car seat will fit in every car. Additionally, the price of the seat does not reflect its ability to protect a child since all seats are tested to the same crash standards.
In addition to properly securing their children, parents and guardians can be a good role model by buckling up every time they get in a vehicle.
State Police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski said each state police troop will conduct at least one child passenger safety seat check event during the week. A list of the state police safety seat check locations is available at www.psp.state.pa.us