How up-to-date are you on the specifics of car seat safety? A recently revised recommendation to keep toddlers rear-facing in their car seats until the age of two prompted me to look up South Carolina’s child passenger safety laws and I was shocked!
From the site SafeKids.org I read the following:
South Carolina’s law requires children ages 5 & under who weigh not more than 80 pounds to be secured in a child safety seat or belt-positioning booster seat in the rear seat, unless the child can sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle back seat cushion, with his or her knees bent over the vehicle’s seat edge without slouching.
Children less than 1 year of age or who weigh less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat in a rear seat.
Children ages 1 through 5 who weigh at least 20 pounds, but less than 40 pounds, must be secured in a forward-facing child safety seat in a rear seat.
Children ages 1 through 5 who weigh at least 40 pounds, but not more than 80 pounds, must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat.
Children ages 5 & under who can sit with their back straight against the vehicle back seat cushion, with their knees bent over the vehicle’s seat edge without slouching may be seated in the back seat and secured by a safety belt.
I’m jumping up on my soapbox, folks, but I can’t stop myself. These laws are horribly outdated and inadequate. “Children ages 1 through 5 who weigh at least 40 pounds, but not more than 80 pounds, must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat.” Really? For those unfamiliar, a booster seat’s purpose is to raise a child so that a stock seat belt can be used to restrain the child. While there are size requirements that help parents decide whether or not their child is ready for one, there are maturity issues to take into consideration. Is your 15-month-old rational enough to sit with his back against the seat without pulling on the seat belt across his chest? Will your two-year-old, in the midst of a nuclear terrible-two meltdown, be able to control her impulse to unbuckle just because she knows it’ll push your buttons?
Driving around the Grand Strand, I, daily, see a child seated in such a way (unrestrained, in a front seat, etc) that makes me gasp. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 894 people died in South Carolina car accidents in 2009, their most recently reported data year. Thirty-one of them were children ages 15 and under. It’s sickening to think they could have been prevented by safety seats and, in the case of older kids, proper seat location.
Have a look at this great chart of all state laws, presented by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association. More than 35 states/territories have laws that protect children better than South Carolina. How many children fall victim to them because their parents think following the law is enough?
Parents, I want to urge you to use common sense. Just because South Carolina’s minimalistic laws say children under the age of five who can sit with their back against the seat and knees comfortably over the edge do not need any type of car seat doesn’t mean that’s the best idea. It takes only minutes to make sure your child is properly restrained. They’ll save you a lifetime of regret in the worst-case scenario.
I’ll leave you with a saying I’ve heard time and time again with regard to keeping children in restrained seating, specifically extended rear-facing. “Broken leg, cast it. Broken neck, casket.” It refers to the extent of injuries a child in a car seat receives in a major crash versus the injuries received if he or she was improperly or unrestrained. Remember that when considering forward-facing for your infant or toddler, deciding whether or not your toddler or preschooler is ready for a booster seat, and requiring your big kid to remain in a booster seat.
I know this is a deviation from my typical events, attractions, and restaurants format, but I write this because I care about the kids visiting and living in the Grand Strand. This is one of the things we, as parents, can do to boost the odds that they will be safe. Thanks for reading.
Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.