EDITORIAL: Update car seat safety standards, recommendations

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

You head to the store with your young kids in tow.

You wrestle the baby into her car seat, buckle the toddler in his booster seat, and you’re on your way.

All good, right?

Probably. But maybe not.

Do you really want to find out in the most devastating way possible?

In the United States this week, 19 children will die in car crashes.

Nineteen more will die the week after that. And the week after that. And week after week after that.

Many of those deaths can be prevented with safer car seats, having children use their existing car seats longer, and better guidance from the federal government for car-seat manufacturers and parents on car-seat use.

That’s the contention of attorneys general from 19 states, including New York, who are calling on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action on proposals made 20 years ago to make car seats even safer.

The common use of car seats has significantly reduced fatalities and injuries among children since they were introduced in the 1970s.

Yet hundreds of children still die needlessly every year in car crashes, many because they were not placed in car seats, were in improperly installed seats or because the car seats themselves were not as safe as they could be.

If you’re the parent or grandparent of young children, the safety of the children in your car should be among your top priorities.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and AGs from states like California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — in a seven-page letter to federal transportation officials  — say they want the feds to implement side-impact testing standards for child car seats (recommended by Congress in 2000), as many car crashes are the result of vehicles being struck from the side.

They also want car seat labels to include statements saying children should remain in their present car seats much longer than they currently do.

The rear-facing and front-facing seats with five-point harnesses used most often by younger, smaller children are safer than booster seats.

Yet parents, encouraged by car-seat makers’ marketing efforts, often are in a rush to move their children out of those car seats and into boosters before their child physically outgrows them.

The NHTSA currently sets the minimum weight for booster seats at 30 pounds, even though harnessed seats can safely accommodate children weighing up to 65 pounds.

Changing the safety standards for car seats and updating the guidance on their use for current and future generations of parents is 20 years overdue.

Updating the standards and adopting these guidelines immediately could save the lives of hundreds of children a year — and spare their families their worst nightmare.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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