This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week, which serves as a reminder that while we’re getting better about buckling up our kids in the backseat, motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for children between ages of 3 and 14.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is using this week to promote child safety education for parents. A new study from Safe Kids USA indicates that while almost all parents are restraining car seats in the backseat, only 28 percent of drivers who carry young passengers are properly using the tethers that secure child seats in collisions. Often the inspected tethers were secured too lowly or not at all. The tethers are a vital safety measure because they keep children’s heads from moving too much during crashes.

The study also raised concern that many parents are not aware of the latest best safety practices for children of different heights and weights. For instance, in 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidelines to recommend that children under two ride in rear-facing seats. However a recent poll showed that only 27 percent of parents had received that message. Almost three quarters of parents reported turning their kids around before year two, and 30 percent before year one.

The results are somewhat alarming considering that, according to the NHTSA, properly used child safety seats decrease the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Even older children are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a booster seat than if they were using seat belts only.

To help educate the local Contra Costa County community, the firefighters from Local 1230 are ramping up their driver education services. The Fire District now has seven nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians who can inspect cars and educate parents and caregivers on the best practices for child passenger safety seats.

The Fire District says that inspections last between a half hour and an hour, depending on the seat and whether any issues are found. These inspections are a convenient and free way for parents and caregivers to make sure that they are using the seat correctly, and that the seat itself has not been recalled. In addition to the inspection, the safety technicians will educate parents on the latest in child passenger safety, and go through the proper way to install child seats.

To take advantage of this Contra Costa Fire Protection District service, call them at (925) 941-3326 or send an email to childcarseat@cccfpd.org.

Nationwide safety inspections

You don’t have to live in Contra Costa County to meet with someone to inspect the safety of your child seat! This Saturday, September 24th, is National Seat Check Saturday. For the finale of Child Passenger Safety Week, certified child safety seat technicians will be on hand at locations around the country to inspect cars and assist with correct installation.

Just head to the NHTSA website and plug in your zip code for a list of locations near you! It’s a great opportunity to get the information that could save the life of a child you love.

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.