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New State Law Increases Age to 8 for Children in Car Safety Seats; Is Your Child in the Correct Seat?

To clarify California’s 2012 Child Passenger Safety law and draw attention to car crashes as the number one leading cause of death among children, the Automobile Club of Southern California, along with Glendale Adventist Medical Center, the Glendale Police Dept. and California Highway Patrol-Southern Division joined today to demonstrate the importance of proper child safety seat use.  The event also commemorated National Child Passenger Safety Month and National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 16-22.  
The 2012 law increases from six to eight the age that children must remain properly secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children age eight or older who are 4’ 9” or taller may use a seat belt if it fits properly.  Nearly 73 percent of child restraints are not installed correctly, said the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Community Programs & Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana at a news event held today at GAMC, one of the Auto Club’s child passenger safety hospital partners. 
The campaign coincides with the American Journal of Preventive Medicine’s newly-published report on U.S. Child Passenger Safety Practices which states that just three percent of children ages one to three were sitting in rear-facing seats and 10 percent of children ages eight to 10 years who were restrained were sitting in a car seat or booster seat.  The Auto Club, Glendale Adventist Medical Center and CHP also were promoting child passenger safety classes offered at the hospital through their partnership. The Auto Club also offers classes at other hospitals and community locations throughout the Southland.
At the news event, Los Angeles-area traffic safety experts and safety advocates demonstrated proper car seat use, seat effectiveness and described child injury and fatality statistics.  Several local mothers watched demonstrations of progressive safety seat use with life-size dolls strapped in infant seat, booster seat and seat belts. Children properly strapped in the back seat of mini-van to showed how to determine booster seat use and seat belt readiness.
A father, who took one of the Auto Club’s child passenger safety classes, described the challenges of understanding infant, booster and safety belt installations for three of his four children who use child safety restraint seats and the change in the state’s child passenger safety law.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics expanded their recommendations for rear facing car seat use from one year old until age two or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. Parents are also advised that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.
Safety seats reduce risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers.  Using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent, according to the Auto Club. 
 In 2009-2010 in California, 82 children, newborn to age 7, were killed and 10,130 were injured in car crashes. During the same time period in LA County, 12 children, newborn to age 7, were killed and 2,781 were injured in car crashes – and in Glendale alone, 24 children, newborn to age 7, were injured in car crashes.
“If only we'd…it's the phrase parents wail as they pace the hospital emergency room, awaiting news of an injured child.  Each year, more than 23 million kids under 15 end up in the emergency room.  According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, 7 million of those children suffer accidental injuries, the leading killer of children under 14,” said Glendale Adventist Medical Center Emergency Services Physician Dr. Anthony Cardillo.  
“The saddest part of these cries?  Most injuries were preventable.  Many injuries occur during car accidents and the easiest way to limit these injuries is to be properly informed as to how to install and correctly use car seats.  Statistics show that as many as 73% of parents have incorrectly installed a car seat or are using them inappropriately,” said Cardillo.   
 For each child under 16 who is not properly secured, parents (if in the car) or drivers can be fined more than $475 and receive a point on their driving record, according to law enforcement agencies.
“The Glendale Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of all children.  Great strides have been made over the past several years in education and enforcement which paves the way for a safer community in which to raise our families,” according to Glendale Police Dept. Bureau Commander Lt. Steve Robertson. “It is through collaborative efforts and partnerships with committed agencies such as Glendale Adventist Medical Center and AAA that we are able to work together to improve traffic safety.  These efforts will continue to save the lives of children.”  
A parent who recently attended the Auto Club class was Glendale Adventist Medical Center anesthesia tech Earl Parayno.  “I thought it really important to understand how the child safety seats work,” said Parayno.  “I did online research but I wanted to be clear about the law’s requirements since three of my four children still need to be in some type of child safety seat.”
Common Mistakes When Installing a Child Safety Seat:
  1. Child safety seats are too loose or not strapped into the vehicle.
  2. Rear-facing infants placed in front seat of vehicle with an active airbag.
  3. Infant turned face-forward too soon – Children should remain rear-facing until at least 2 years old or the upper limits of their child safety seats.
  1. Not using a booster seat or moving child out of booster seat too soon – Parents often move their children out of a booster seat as soon as they reach the legal requirement (8 years old).  Child may use vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest.  If children are not tall enough (4 feet, nine inches) for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster seat.
  2. Not using Top Tether – During a forward facing child safety seat installation, parents or caregivers may forget to top tether the seat to vehicle tether anchors. 
Common Errors When Placing the Child in Safety Seat:
  1. Harness straps too loose – Parents should not be able to pinch the harness, if they are able to pinch the harness clip then the child is too loose.
  2. Retainer clip not in the appropriate location: Common error is to have the retainer clip too low or too high on the child.  The retainer clip should be at armpit level.
Through the partnership, the Auto Club is offering child passenger safety classes quarterly at Glendale Adventist Medical Center with the next class scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27.  The Auto Club also offers child passenger safety classes at other locations throughout Southern California.  For information, please visit or call Lora Babilo at 714-885-2312.
The CHP offers free child passenger restraint inspections at all CHP area offices throughout the state.  CHP coordinates Child Safety Seat Check-up Events for local communities.  "Our goal is to reduce the number of child fatalities and injuries by educating drivers on the importance of proper child safety seat usage and installation," said CHP's Southern Division Commander, Chief Steve Beeuwsaert.  Motorists can contact a local CHP Area office for more details or to make an appointment. 
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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.