30 years of child passenger safety laws
This year marks 30 years since Minnesota first passed its child passenger safety laws in 1982. That year, less than 20 percent of the 11 infants (ages 0-3) killed in crashes were known to be properly restrained in a child safety seat and only 22 percent of the 387 injured were restrained.
The success of the car seat laws and increased use of child restraints has made a dramatic impact on child safety over the years, according to Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety data:
• In Minnesota since 2007, more than 15,000 children ages 0–7 were properly restrained and involved in traffic crashes and a majority of those children, 86 percent were not injured and 12 percent sustained only minor injuries.
• In the last decade, 32 children ages 0–7 were killed in crashes and 44 percent were properly restrained.
“There is no debate when it comes to the benefits of child seats,” Heather Darby, child passenger safety programs coordinator at DPS, said in a news release. “Parents and caregivers have a huge responsibility to ensure their children are safe when they ride and step one is using the right seat that’s correctly installed.”
Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week was recently held and DPS is emphasized the importance of correct child safety restraint and booster seat use to keep children safe while riding in a vehicle. In Minnesota, three out of four child restraints are used incorrectly — meaning children are riding in the wrong restraint or it is not properly secured.
Parents and caregivers may visit buckleupkids.mn.gov for instructional videos for installing and using various car seats, and to find a local car seat check location.
Common child passenger safety mistakes:
• Turning a child from a rear-facing restraint to a forward-facing restraint too soon.
• Restraint is not secured tight enough. It should not shift more than one inch side-to-side or out from the seat.
• Harness on the child is not tight enough. If you can pinch harness material, it’s too loose.
• Retainer clip is up too high or too low. Should be at the child’s armpit level.
• The child is in the wrong restraint. Don’t rush your child into a seat belt.
Child passenger seat steps for children
• Rear-facing infant seats. Newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds. Recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.
• Forward-facing toddler seats: Age 2 until around age 4. It’s preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint as long as possible.
• Booster seats: From age 4 until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.
• Seat belts: A child is ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor. Children 4 feet 9 inches tall or more can correctly fit in a lap/shoulder belt.
Booster-age children (ages 4–7) fatal and injury crash facts, 2007–2011 in Minnesota:
• Of 11 killed, only three were properly restrained.
• Of 2, 120 injured, only 918 were properly restrained.
• Of 5,847 who were properly restrained and involved in a crash, 84 percent were not injured.