“National Seat Check Saturday” – Sept. 12.

Safe Kids USA makes passenger safety a top priority during Child Passenger Safety Week 2009 and urges parents and caregivers to make sure their children’s safety seats are properly installed in their vehicles at the third annual “National Seat Check Saturday” on Sept. 12.

Find a Safe Kids car seat check up event near you.

Parents should remember that passenger safety is always important – even after a child has outgrown their car seat. Booster seats and seat belts are just as important for older kids as car seats are for younger kids.

National Seat Check Saturday

Regardless of the age of a child, it’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver to make sure their children are safely restrained every time and on every trip. Safe Kids coalitions around the country are joining NHTSA in National Seat Check Saturday and holding more than 260 activities to kick off Child Passenger Safety Week, which runs Sept. 12 to 18.

Certified child passenger safety technicians will be available at a variety of community locations, such as General Motors dealerships, to provide hands-on instruction for parents and caregivers on installing car seats and booster seats.

Older Children & Buckling Up

Parents do a great job of keeping babies buckled up. But as a child gets older, they are less likely to use a restraint. According to a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of child restraints declines as children get older:

• From birth to 12 months, 99 percent of children ride in a restraint.

• For kids ages 1 to 3, it drops to 92 percent.

• For kids ages 4 to 7, 89 percent are restrained.

• For kids ages 8 to 12, only 85 percent ride in a restraint.

Research has shown that young children restrained in child safety seats have an 80 percent lower risk of fatal injury than those who are unrestrained. For children ages 4 to 7, booster seats have shown to reduce injury risk by 59 percent compared to safety belts alone.

Safety Tips

Every parent and caregiver should have their child checked to be sure they are using the right restraint – a car seat, booster seat or seat belt. When it comes to the safety of a child, there is no room for mistakes.

Five guidelines parents can use to make sure their children are safely restrained in a vehicle:

• For the best possible protection keep infants in a back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible – up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. Never turn a child forward-facing before age 1 and at least 20 pounds, although keeping kids rear-facing until age 2 is safer and preferred if the seat allows.

• When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in a back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular harnessed seat. Many newer seats exceed the old 40 pound weight limit.

• Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride on booster seats, in a back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.

• Seat belts fit properly when the child can pass the Safety Belt Fit Test: the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collar bone and the knees bend naturally at the seat’s edge (usually when the child is between 8 and 12 years old, approximately 4’9” tall and 80 to 100 pounds).

• After children fully outgrow their booster seats, they should use the adult seat belts in a back seat. Kids should never put the seat belt behind their back or under the arm.

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