Louisiana highway safety officials encourage proper use of child safety seats Officials note that National Child Passenger Safety Week is September 19-25

Staff reports

Louisiana highway safety officials are using National Child Passenger Safety Week to remind parents and caregivers to properly secure children in vehicles to protect them from the risks of motor vehicle crashes.

State law requires that children who are up to six years old, or weigh less than 60 pounds, ride in child safety or booster seats.

The Sept. 19-25 campaign aims to raise awareness among parents, grandparents and other family members about the need to keep kids properly restrained in motor vehicles. As part of the campaign, law enforcement and safety officials will provide free child safety seat inspection stations throughout the state. Certified technicians will inspect child safety seats and offer help on how to correctly install and use the restraints.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for children ages 3 to 14 years old. National studies have shown that the proper use of child restraint systems reduces serious or fatal injuries by more than half.

Sixty-four percent of the children ages 14 and under who were killed in traffic crashes in Louisiana in 2008 were not in proper child safety seats or wearing seat belts.

A statewide 2010 observational survey found an increase in the use of child safety restraints across all age groups compared to 2009. The survey found that 86.8 percent of children under 13 were restrained while in a motor vehicle, up from 80.9 percent in 2009.

 However, the use of safety restraints decreased as age increased, the survey found. More than 97 percent of infants observed were restrained, but the rate was only 86.8 percent for ages 6-13.

“Ensuring that a child is in the proper child safety seat drastically reduces the chance of serious or fatal injuries in the event of a crash,” said Lt. Col. John Leblanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Help is available for parents and caregivers to ensure they are properly securing children in their vehicles.”

The Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force coordinates a number of inspection stations throughout the state where a certified child passenger safety technician can check installation and answer questions about child safety restraints.

To find a technician or an inspection station near you, visit www.lahighwaysafety.org and “select child passenger safety” from the menu.

Louisiana state law requires the following for children 13 and under:

Babies under 1 year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing infant or convertible safety seat. Safety officials advise parents to install the child safety seat in the rear seat of a vehicle away from an active airbag.

Children ages 1 to 4 and weighing between 20 and 40 pounds must be secured in a front-facing convertible or combination safety seat which uses an internal harness.

Children ages 4 to 6 or weighing 40 to 60 pounds must be secured in a front-facing belt-positioning booster seat.

Children up to 6 years old or who weigh less than 60 pounds must be secured in a vehicle lap-shoulder belt or a belt-positioning booster seat.

All other children up to age 13 must wear seat belts or be secured in a booster seat.