Parents warned of improper car seat use

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(Host) A new Vermont law that went into effect January first says children up to the age of eight must now be in a booster seat when traveling by car. But as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, many parents are unaware of that new law and – even more startling – the majority of parents who do use a child seat in the car don’t use it correctly.

(Keck) Seat belt use has risen dramatically in the last ten years. And more parents are making sure their children are buckled up than ever before. That’s the good news. The bad news is that almost nine out of 10 Vermont parents are buckling up their kids incorrectly. Rutland County Sheriff’s Deputy Erin McNeil:

(McNeil) “There’s a lot to a car seat. There are hundreds of different types of car seats, hundreds of different types of cars. And the instructions are very vague on how they go in. And most parents mean very well, but make a minor mistake, which could be a fatal flaw in the event of a crash.”

(Keck) McNeil says a lot of attention has been paid to making sure infants and toddlers are properly restrained in cars, but parents are less sure what to do with older kids. The Rutland County Sheriff’s Deputy says that’s why the state toughened the laws.

(McNeil) “The number one cause of children’s fatalities between five and 14 years old is motor vehicle crashes. That can be linked to the reality that most kids are unbuckled or improperly restrained.”

(Keck) As of January 1, all children up to age eight must ride in a properly used child seat or booster. And no child under 12 should sit in the front seat. Because many parents are unaware of the new law, McNeil says the state is working hard to provide inspections and training. They’re also making new booster seats available for $10. To get more information or to find out where to meet with an inspector, call the Governor’s Highway Safety Program at 1-888-TOT-SEAT.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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