When Mom drives to the store in Emporia or the family takes a day trip out of town in a SUV, seatbelt use for all people in a vehicle is absolutely mandatory.

All of us need to buckle up to save lives in all age groups - from newborns to grandparents. Between the years 2003 - 2012, 3,473 occupants in motor vehicles died in automobile crashes in the state of Kansas. Seatbelts dramatically reduce risk of death and serious injury by 45 percent for drivers and front seat passengers.

Seatbelts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected during a crash when used correctly. Appropriate placement of seatbelts is crucial for all occupants in a motor vehicle. The lap and shoulder seatbelt needs to be secured across the pelvis and rib cage, respectively, for safe protocol use. The shoulder belt should be placed across the chest and away from the neck while the lap belt needs to rest across the hips, away from the stomach. It is important to never place the shoulder belt behind the back or underneath the arm in occupants of motor vehicles.

The safest place for child passengers will always be in the back seat. Airbags may cause additional harm to a child’s body, if the child is riding in the front seat and not at the appropriate height of 4 feet, 9 inches in length and 13 years of age.

Seatbelts are made to fit adults and do not protect small children properly. Therefore, booster seats work by raising the child up so the lap and shoulder belts are positioned properly across the child’s chest and hips. Tucking the seatbelt under the child’s arm or behind their back may cause more serious injuries during a crash. Booster seats reduce the risk of injury by 59 percent, compared to using only a seatbelt.

Children under the age of 4 years old must properly use a certified harness car seat to provide the ultimate protection designed by that car seat. The child should be forward or rear-facing, pursuant to the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the car seat. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for two years or more.

As of 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children to remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible (usually 36 inches and 30 to 35 pounds).

In regards to car seat placement in the back seat, it is important to put rear facing seat harnesses in slots that are at or below the baby’s shoulders. The harness needs to be snug with the chest clip to be placed at the center of the chest in line with the child’s armpits.

Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active front passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it will hit the back of the car seat, causing serious injury or death to the child. In a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seatbelt or lower anchor webbing is routed through the correct belt path.

A child who is under the age of 8 years old and “weighs less than 80 pounds or is less than 4 feet, 9 inches in height” must use a certified booster seat as well as a seat belt. A child under the age of 14 years old or “weighs more than 80 pounds or is more than 4 feet, 9 inches in height” must wear a properly fitted seat belt.

The Highway Patrol or the Emporia Fire Department offers free safety seat check-ups and installations by certified technicians at each headquarters. Call the nearest headquarters office to make an appointment if needed. A driver can be stopped and issued a citation when a law enforcement officer observes an unrestrained child riding in a vehicle.

Violations of the Child Passenger Safety Act will cost a violator a $60 fine, plus court costs. In Kansas, seat belt laws are primary for drivers and front seat passengers and for passengers age 14-17 in all seats. The laws are secondary for rear seat passengers age 18 and older.

Such information and other safety recommendations for infants, children, and teens are provided at wellness visits at Newman Regional Health Pediatrics when visiting Derek J Brown MD and Tammy Patterson, APRN.

Remember to wear a seatbelt and make sure all other occupants in a motor vehicle are wearing their seatbelts appropriately in accordance to the car/ booster seat manufacturer.

Click it or ticket. It’s the law and may save a life!

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