Child Safety is 24/7 Responsibility

Childhood disease is a serious threat that always looms large in the minds of parents. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children ages two to 14. While that is a sobering statistic, the good news is that there are simple ways to increase the odds for your children's safety in a radical way. Children aged four to eight who use booster seats and safety belts correctly are 59% less likely to be injured in a motor vehicle crash than children who are restrained only by a safety belt. Sadly, more than 80% of child restraints are used incorrectly, according to NHTSA.
The safety experts at 21st Century Insurance, after consulting with safety mavens nationwide, offer these 10 tips to help keep young passengers safe:

Top 10 Do's for Child Passenger Safety:

1. Always use a child safety seat. Start with your new baby's ride home from the hospital, and don't deviate no matter how inconvenient it may see at times.

2. Pick the right child safety seat. Make sure you are using the correct type of seat for your child's age and weight. Very young children should ride in a rear-facing seat. As children age and grow larger a forward-facing seat should be used. Finally as children get still bigger a booster seat is the appropriate choice.

3. Read the directions. All car seats must be installed and used properly. Read the owners manual to the seat and your car to make certain you are installing the seat correctly.

4. Register your seat. Complete the registration card for your new seat and send it to the seat's manufacturer. This will allow you to be alerted by the manufacturer should there be problems and recalls involving that seat.

5. Baby your baby. Remember that babies need more support. Use a rear-facing seat that offers additional head and neck support for babies up to 22 pounds.

6. Use a booster seat. Children ages four to eight years old should be restrained in a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle. The booster allows the seatbelt to be properly positioned across your child's chest rather than neck.

7. Use integral child seat harnesses correctly. Make sure harnesses are in slots at or below the shoulders for rear-facing seats or at or above the shoulders for forward-facing seats. Harnesses should lie in a snug, straight line across the child.

8. Know the law. Seatbelt and child-seat laws vary from state to state. Know the requirements where you live. But don't do the minimum.

9. Ask the experts. Learn how to correctly install and use your seat by attending a local passenger safety clinic. Your local paper will alert you to these events, which are held frequently.

10. Check out resources. For more information, call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK or go to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration) Web site.

To help reduce preventable injuries and deaths, 21st Century Insurance premiered its child safety seat initiative five years ago. Since then, more than 7,000 child safety seats have been inspected throughout six states; 21st has donated more than 5,500 new child safety seats; and more than 2,500 broken, recalled or non-age-appropriate child safety seats have been collected and discarded.

DT Contributing Editor Luigi Fraschini, the father of three, writes frequently on child-safety issues.