Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

To bring attention to children who ride in car seats that are either installed incorrectly or are not compatible for their age and size, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is sponsoring National Child Passenger Safety Week Sept. 17-23.

The annual campaign is dedicated to helping parents and caregivers ensure their children ride as safely as possible during every trip. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared Sept. 17-23 National Child Passenger Safety Week for the state, and designated Saturday, Sept. 23 as Child Passenger Safety Day.

In North Carolina, on average, more than 36,000 children from birth to 15 are involved in vehicle crashes each year. Nearly 28 percent of children birth to seven years old and more than 32 percent of children 8 to 15 who were killed or seriously injured in passenger vehicle crashes in North Carolina between 2011 and 2016 were improperly restrained or unrestrained.

“In 2015, every 33 seconds, a child under 13 was involved in a vehicle accident,” said Safe Kids Macon County Coordinator Deputy Josh Stewart. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe.”

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children with fatalities on the rise, according to NHTSA. Safe Kids Macon County will be hosting a free car seat safety check on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Macon County Public Library from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The car seat check will be held in conjunction with Read2Me’s annual parent training event which will feature a petting zoo, music, and story time.

“In 2015, there were 248 children across the country under the age of five whose lives were saved because they were riding in car seats,” Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland said. “Not only do car seats matter, but making sure that you have the right car seat, and it’s installed correctly can mean the difference between life and death for your child. Safe Kids wants to make sure your children are as safe as possible.”

The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. According to NHTSA, in 2015 about 25.8 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 7 were prematurely moved to seat belts while they should have still been utilizing booster seats. Of those children, 11.6 percent were left unbuckled.

“As parents, it’s our responsibility to keep our children safe,” Stewart said. “So stop by and get your car seats checked. Make certain they’re installed correctly and that your kids are in the right seats and are buckled in correctly. Even if you think your child is safe, it won’t hurt to check again, so you can be certain that your child is the safest he or she can be while traveling.”

Safe Kids Macon County has more than a dozen certified car seat technicians trained to make sure car seats are installed appropriately and correctly fit a child. Across the state, 2,800 nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians represent 98 counties.

Local car seat inspections are available by appointment at Macon County Sheriff’s Annex Building, Franklin Police Department, and Franklin Fire Department.

NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible up to the top height or weight allowed by the particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, they should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat, according to the release. After the child outgrows rear-facing size limits, the child can travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether. Once they outgrow that, they should travel in a booster seat until the child is the right size to use a seat belt safely.

Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety online at www.nhtsa.gov/carseat.

For local car seat inspections by appointment, call Stewart, a certified car seat technician, at (828)349-2104.

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