AAA and the Minnesota Safety Council Unite to Remind Parents of the Importance of Child Passenger Safety and Highlight New Web Site


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BURNSVILLE, Minn.--According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 7,500 lives have been saved by the proper use of child restraints during the past 20 years. Yet, motor vehicle crashes remain the number one killer of children ages 4 to 14 in America. The reason? Too often, it is the improper use or non-use of child safety seats and booster seats.

Thats why AAA Minnesota/Iowa and the Minnesota Safety Council are joining forces around Valentines Day this year to promote Child Passenger Safety Week (Feb. 11-17). Both organizations also want to draw attention to the new web site developed in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, www.carseatsmadesimple.org.

In 2005, an average of five children ages 14 and younger were killed and 640 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the U. S. every single day, said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. Thats why well be working so hard during Child Passenger Safety Week and throughout the year talking to parents and caregivers about the importance of restraining their children properly in their vehicles.

While 98 percent of Americas infants and 93 percent of children ages 1 to 3 are regularly restrained, not enough children ages 4 through 7 are restrained properly for their size and age. Only 10 to 20 percent of children ages 4 through 7 who should be using booster seats to protect them are actually in them. However, children ages 4 to 8 who are placed in booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained only by a seat belt, according to a study by Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

As children grow, how they need to be secured in a car, truck, van or SUV changes, Weinholzer said. For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers simply need to remember and follow the 4 Steps for Kids:

1) For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds;

2) When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds);

3) Once children outgrow their forward facing seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.

4) When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually about age 8 or when they are at least 49 tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly. The lap belt should lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the chest. The childs back should be up against the seat back and knees should bend over the front edge of the seat.

This year, during Child Passenger Safety Week, we are working hard to remind all parents, grandparents and child care providers that if their children are under 49, they need to be in a child safety seat or booster seat, said Weinholzer. What better way to show you love your children on Valentines Day than to make sure they are secured properly. Make it the law in your car - it might actually save your childrens lives.

For more information about the proper use of child safety seats and booster seats, please visit www.carseatsmadesimple.org. The new web site not only contains valuable information to help parents choose the right seat and use it properly, but much of it is translated into Spanish, Hmong and Somali as well. Parents and other caregivers hear that most car seats are installed improperly and it shakes their confidence, said Ann Kulenkamp, director of communications for the Minnesota Safety Council. But a great majority of those errors are very basic and can be avoided.

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