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car seat graphic Car Seat Safety

Here are some tips for using a child safety seat:

  • The back seat is generally the safest place in the car for all children 12 years of age or younger.
  • Babies up to 20 lbs. and about age one should ride in a safety seat secured to the back seat facing the rear of the car. Make sure the vehicle’s seat belt is put through the correct slot in the safety seat. Incorrectly fastened safety seats defeat their purpose and can result in injury. NOTE: Babies should not be placed forward or backward in the front passenger seat if the vehicle has a passenger-side air bag.
  • Toddlers over 20 lbs. and about age one or older should ride in the back seat buckled into an approved child safety seat.
  • Children ages 6 and under and weighing less than 60 pounds must be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in all seating positions.
  • When California does mandate child restraint use, it requires the driver to secure both the child safety seat and the child properly.
  • The safety belt law covers all occupants in all seating positions.
  • SB 363 requires auto insurers to cover the cost of replacing child safety seats following an automobile collision.

For more information about child passenger safety visit

Air Bags

Most people can take steps to eliminate or reduce risk without turning off air bags. The biggest risk is being too close to the air bag. An air bag needs about 10 inches of space to inflate. Ride at least 10 inches (measured from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone) from the air bag cover if you can do this while maintaining full control of the vehicle. If you cannot safely sit 10 inches away from the air bag, contact your vehicle dealer or manufacturer for advice about additional ways of moving back from your air bag. Passengers should also sit at least 10 inches away from the air bag.

Seat Belts

If seat belts are the number one way to save lives in our vehicles, why doesn’t everyone wear them, all the time? Statistics for unnecessary deaths and injuries as a result of not wearing a seat belt are not getting better. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), although the percentage of vehicle occupants wearing seat belts has risen from 59 percent in 1991, still only 70 percent of vehicle occupants in the United States use their safety belts. During 2000, California had a total of 511,248 traffic collisions: 3,331 fatal, 198,348 injury and 309,569 property damage only.

A properly fitting seat belt sits low across the hips without riding up onto the stomach; and the shoulder part of the belt runs across the collarbone and chest, not against the neck or face.

Children who are not buckled up are three times more likely to suffer a significant injury in a crash than children who are buckled up. Significant injuries include brain injuries, fractures and damage to internal organs.

Did you Know?

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 4 to 14 years old.
  • Fourteen percent of the drivers killed in crashes in the year 2000 were 15 to 20 years old. Yet, this age group represents only 8.7 percent of the population.
  • As of the year 2000, 32 states have seat belt laws with secondary enforcement. A secondary law allows officers to give tickets for seat belt violations only after a car is stopped for some other violation.
  • As of the year 2000, 17 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have seat belt laws with primary enforcement. A primary seat belt law allows officers to stop and ticket drivers for violating the seat belt law without observing any other infraction.
  • Fifteen percent of children involved in car crashes are injured in some way.
  • Seat belt use isn’t just a good idea: It’s the law.
  • The fatality rate for teenage drivers is about four times as high as the rate for 25-69 year olds.
  • Children who have outgrown booster seats—children 8 years old or at least 4 feet nine inches—should use seat belts.
  • In the year 2000, overall child restraint use by children under five was 91 percent. Restraint use by infants under one year old was 95 percent. Restraint use by toddlers aged one to four was 91 percent.
  • In the year 2000, restraint use by children under five was 96 percent in cities, 94 percent in suburban areas, and 72 percent in rural areas.
  • In the year 2000, crashes involving teenage drivers cost the nation an estimated $32.8 billion.
  • Drivers are less likely to use seat belts when they have been drinking. In the year 2000, of the teenage drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes, 80 percent were not wearing seat belts.
  • In the year 2000, more than 8,000 children under 15 were involved in fatal crashes. Among those children killed, 56 percent were unrestrained.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for more information on vehicle standards and safety, service bulletins and more.


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