The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project (PA TIPP) are encouraging drivers to take advantage of safety seat check resources across the state as the agencies mark National Child Passenger Safety Week (CPSW) from September 19 through September 25. Additionally, Saturday, September 25 has been designated as “National Seat Check Saturday.”
“Seat belts and car seats are the best defense in a crash,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “PennDOT urges all parents and caregivers to take time this week to learn more about the importance of correctly selecting, installing, and using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.”
Car seat checks will be held across the state the week of Child Passenger Safety Week. Visit PA TIPP’s webpage for a list of events.
PSP personnel certified as Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians will be conducting free child seat fitting events across the state. Caregivers can have their car seats checked for suitability, receive instruction on the proper installation, and have seat(s) installed, learn to properly harness a child in a seat and check seats for recalls. A full list of local free car seat fitting events is available on PSP’s website.
According to national statistics, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury by up to 71 percent for infants and 59 percent for toddlers; however,46 percent of car seats and booster seats are installed or used incorrectly. Through June 2021, members of the PSP have conducted 406 child safety seat inspections and discovered 239 cases of misuse. Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted seat checks, but PSP completed more than 850 checks and found more than 350 misuses by drivers. In 2019, over 1,600 checks were completed with more than 600 misuses observed. The checkups are designed to teach proper installation and use of child safety seats and keep children across the commonwealth safe.
To advance their public safety missions, PennDOT and PSP invest in community resources across the state. PennDOT funds resources such as training and educational materials for more than 200 fitting stations across Pennsylvania. In coordination with CPSW and Seat Check Saturday, local police will focus on proper child seat usage during a statewide CIOT Child Passenger Safety enforcement running from September 11 through September 24. In addition, each PSP Troop has designated walk in days where drivers can have their child safety seats checked free of charge.
Pennsylvania’s primary seat belt law requires all occupants younger than 18 to wear a seat belt when riding anywhere in a vehicle. Children under the age of two must be secured in a rear-facing car seat, and children under the age of four must be restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until their eighth birthday.
“Parents and caregivers are encouraged to educate themselves and seek out assistance to properly install child passenger safety seats,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, Commissioner of the PSP. “Keeping our youngest passengers safe should be a priority for everyone. Troopers who are certified as child passenger safety seat technicians are available to assist anyone who has questions or needs help installing a child seat.”
A secondary law also requires drivers and front-seat passengers 18 or older to buckle up. If motorists are stopped for a traffic violation and are not wearing their seat belt, they can receive a second ticket and second fine.
Because of the potential dangers associated with air bag deployment, children 12 and younger should always ride buckled in a vehicle’s back seat.
“The best way to protect your child is to place them in the right car seat for their age and size and to correctly secure it in the back seat of the vehicle,” said Angela Osterhuber, Director of the Traffic Injury Prevention Project. “Child passenger safety technicians are available to teach you how to use your car seat correctly.”
PA TIPP also offers the following tips:
- Select a car seat that is right for the child’s age and size;
- Fill out and return the registration card for your seat so you’ll know if it is recalled because of a problem;
- Read and follow the car seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for information on correctly installing the car seat in the vehicle;
- Use the car’s seat belt or the LATCH system when installing the car seat;
- Make sure the car seat’s harness is correctly adjusted and fits snugly; and
- Use a tether strap when installing a forward-facing car seat, following manufacturer’s instructions.