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Local memorial foundation urges car seat safety

Staff Report

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children age from 6 to 14. Children in this age group need to be protected, according to the Luke Schaffner Memorial Foundation, a Truckee group founded by local parents after 11-month old Luke Schaffner died in a car crash on Highway 89 and Alder Creek in June 1999.

Many parents who diligently buckle their babies and toddlers into child safety seats are inadvertently putting them at risk when they get older. In many states, children are required by law to be restrained in seats only until the age of 3. This often attributes to the incorrect assumption that older children are properly protected by regular seat belts. The fact is that older children need to use a booster seat to be safe.

In California, children are now required by law (as of Jan 1, 2001) to be in a car seat or booster seat until age 4 and 40 lbs.

“Booster seats are the most under-used seat out there,” said a spokesperson for the Luke Schaffner Memorial Foundation. “Parents think that part of ‘growing up’ is sitting in their car in a ‘big boy or big girl’ seat belt. Well, the reality is those seat belts are not designed for a child, even if the law says its OK for them to be in one.”

While California state law says a child must be 4 years old and 40 lbs to graduate from his or her booster seat, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommendation is that children be in a booster seat until 8 years old and 80 lbs.

According to the NHTSA, “Children who cannot sit with their backs straight against the vehicle seat back cushion, with knees bent over a vehicle’s seat edge without slouching, are not big enough for adult seat belts. On a small child, the adult lap belt rides up over the stomach and the shoulder belt cuts across the neck. In a crash, this could cause serious or even fatal injuries.”

Booster Seat Safety Recommendations

It is important for parents to know the safety recommendations. According to the NHTSA:

– Children should be kept in a forward-facing safety seat with full harness as long as the child fits in this seat. Generally, children outgrow regular child safety seats when they reach about 40 pounds or when they have grown too tall for the seat. Two indicators are if the child’s ears are above the back of the car seat or the shoulders are above the highest strap slots.

– Once the child outgrows the safety seat, booster seats are needed to fill in the gap until the child is big enough for a regular seat belt. Generally, this is when the child is about 80 pounds and around 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

– For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt should rest low across the upper thighs, with the child sitting straight against the seat back. The shoulder belt should rest snugly on the shoulder across the chest. Shoulder belts should never be placed behind the child or under the arm, which offers no upper body protection and can result in severe injuries.

There are many local places to take your carseat to be fitted properly free of charge. The following agencies will install your infant car seat, child car seat, or booster seat: the Truckee CHP, Squaw Valley Fire Dept., Meeks Bay Fire Dept., Kings Beach Health Dept., (all by appointment only). You can also call REMSA in Reno, they do monthly car seat checkpoints: 775-858-kids.

If you have any further questions contact the Luke Schaffner Memorial Foundation at 530-582-5781.


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