Does your teen driver or you, for that matter, know the law when it comes to properly restraining a child in a motor vehicle? Perhaps, your teen babysits and occasionally transports his/her young charge. Knowing not only what the minimum requirements are under New Jersey’s child restraint law, but “best practice” is essential.
For instance, did you know that while a child who weighs less than 80 pounds or is under the age of 8 must ride in the appropriate car or booster seat, most children don’t fit properly in a seat belt until they’re about 10 years of age or at least 4-feet, 9-inches tall? Did you also know that children are safer riding rear facing in a child restraint until the age of two? Or, not all booster seats fit a child or the vehicle, and that a child should sit in the backseat until age 13?
Now I know what you’re thinking – who has the time to keep up with all of this information? As we learn more and more about how best to protect children in cars, staying abreast of the changes can literally be a full-time job. The good news is that there are a variety of resources available to help parents, babysitters and other caregivers, as well as grandparents stay in the know. One of the most helpful is the newly launched Parents Central website, a one-stop shop for keeping kids safe in and around cars. This National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) resource is loaded with information to help adults ensure that children are in the right seat, at the right time and that it’s used correctly.
In addition to web resources, a veritable army of more than 35,000 individuals (including yours truly) is standing by to offer help. Child passenger safety technicians are trained, under the auspices of NHTSA and Safe Kids, to offer free educational programs and car seat checks in communities across the nation. Here in New Jersey, more than 350 technicians, through the support of the New Jersey
Division of Highway Traffic Safety, provide assistance to families across the state. Their goal is to help children establish a lifelong habit of seat belt use.
While CPS technicians work year-round to ensure children are properly restrained in motor vehicles, they’ll be out in full force this week – September 16-22. That’s the national observance of Child Passenger Safety Week, which will be marked by a variety of events culminating with “Seat Check Saturday” on September 22. On that day, you’re encouraged to take advantage of a free car seat check, where technicians will not only help you determine if your seat is appropriate for the child you’re transporting, but ensure that you know how to regularly inspect, adjust and/or install the seat so that it’s protecting your precious cargo on every trip.
For teens who babysit or have younger siblings, consider contacting a CPS technician in your area to learn about proper restraint for children. Many police departments as well as AAA offices and hospitals have trained technicians on staff who are standing by to help. At the very least, download Car Seat recommendations for Children, a helpful reference that clearly and succinctly explains proper restraint for children from birth through 12 years of age. For parents with children under the age of 13, tack the flyer on the fridge as a reminder of what you (and your babysitter) need to do to ensure your child’s in-car safety as he celebrates another birthday.