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A Publication of WTVP

Seat belts are the most important and obvious feature when it comes to automobile safety. Always wear your seat belt and shoulder harness when riding in a vehicle; the safest place for you in a crash is sitting securely in your seat. Many fatal crashes occur at relatively low speeds, and you double your chances of surviving a crash by wearing your seat belt. A seat belt alone is 42 percent effective; airbags are only 2 percent effective. Seat belts and airbags together raise effectiveness to 47 percent.

It’s important to wear your seat belt properly for it to be the most effective. The belt should cross your shoulder and rest on your hips and pelvis. Many times, pregnant woman are unsure about wearing their seat belt and often do not as the size of their abdomen increases. They should continue to wear their seat belt, however, making sure to place the restraint belt over and under their abdomen.

Many people mistakenly believe they can brace against the steering wheel and avoid serious injury in a frontal type crash. However, even at only 25 mph, an unrestrained driver can strike the steering wheel with the same force as falling from the third floor of a building.

Tragically, more than 40 percent of children who die in car crashes are unbelted. This number is alarming and can be avoided by using the proper child restraint system (CRS). Always be sure children are properly protected when riding in a moving motor vehicle under your control; it’s the law.

In most cases, child restraint systems provide more safety than your car’s standard seats. Nonetheless, research shows most parents either don’t use them properly or don’t use them at all. It’s also a good idea to check your automobile’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations before shopping for a CRS. Some cars made before 1996 have the wrong belt anchors for typical CRS systems, but Ford, GM, Honda, and Nissan all make replacement parts to upgrade for newer CRS compatibility.

Children weighing up to 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing seat designed and approved for an infant. The infant’s head must be at least an inch from the top of the seat back and should remain rear facing for a minimum of one year—and longer if possible. Children over one year old and weighing 20 to 40 pounds may ride in a forward-facing CRS. Children no longer able to fit in the five-point harness of a forward-facing CRS, generally four to eight years old, should ride in a booster seat until they’re at least 57 inches tall.

For more information about CRS or other safety issues, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site at www.nhtsa.gov. IBI

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