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Child restraints can save lives

Posted: Monday, May 08, 2000

Despite safety laws and public education in the United States, four out of five children are still either not using a child safety restraint or using it incorrectly.

Car crashes are the number one preventable cause of death of children and young adults. They are also the a major cause of permanent brain damage, epilepsy and spinal cord injuries.

A sudden stop at only 30 miles per hour can cause the same crushing force on your child's brain and body as a fall from a three-story building. Fortunately, by buckling up children, we can prevent most of these deaths and serious injuries.

The law in the state of Alaska requires that all children under 16 years of age must wear a safety belt, and those under 4 must be in an appropriate car safety seat. All of us want the best for our family, so be sure to follow the ``Four Rules for Auto Safety'' and protect your children!

Choose a safety seat that fits your child. Some seats fit only infants, ``convertibles'' may be adjusted to fit from birth to 40 lbs. Booster seats are for children who have outgrown regular safety seats. Check your car seat manual or the stickers on the side of the seat to be sure your child is in the proper car seat. If you have lost the manual and the stickers have worn off, perhaps it is time for a new seat. Manufacturers now recommend destroying a seat that is over five to ten years old.

Check that it fits tightly in the car. Try it before you buy it. Local vendors may allow you to take the demo model out to your vehicle to see if it fits tightly. Not all seats will fit in all cars. Also refer to your vehicle owner's manual for special installation instructions which apply to your particular vehicle seats and belts. After making the belt as tight as possible, check that the safety seat stays in place while you try to slide it side to side. If the seat moves more than an inch, use another seating position. If it remains too loose, you may need to use a locking clip, check your vehicle manual to be sure.

Follow instructions exactly. As mentioned above, you need to read the instructions provided by the car seat manufacturer and your vehicle manual. These can be difficult to read and sometimes complicated to follow, so don't be afraid to ask for help!

Buckle up children in the back seat. It is the safest position in the vehicle. Children need to stay in the back seat until they are 13 years of age. It is extremely important that you never place a rear-facing infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger side air bag. Rear-facing infants have been killed by the explosive force of a partially inflated air bag slamming into the back of the safety seat at 200 mph.

For more information about correctly installing your child's safety seat call the Juneau Public Health Center at 465-3353.

Several people in Juneau have completed special training provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and are available to inspect your seat by appointment. This service is free of charge and available to all interested. Call today for more information on how to protect your child.

Colleen McNulty



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