During Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-25) the Department of Transportation and our safety partners encourage parents and caregivers to buckle their children safely into appropriate seats. Whether child safety seats or booster seats, children need to be buckled up whenever they ride in a motor vehicle. And they need to be buckled correctly.
Let's start with the good news: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, 96% of children three years old and younger rode in child safety seats. That's up from 92% in 2008, a significant increase for a number that was already so high. It's pretty clear that parents and caregivers are trying to protect young children in cars.
But there's also some alarming news from NHTSA: Three out of every four of those child safety seats are not being used correctly. And I probably don't need to tell you that child safety seats used incorrectly cannot protect our children.
That's why Child Passenger Safety Week encourages parents and caregivers to have their child safety seats checked at one of the thousands of free inspection stations across the country. You can find the station nearest you at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS. I know America's families are busy, but spending only a few minutes at one of these inspection stations can save you a lifetime of regret.
And, as a grandfather of nine terrific kids, let me just add that it's just as important for grandparents to properly install these seats.
During Child Passenger Safety Week, we also want to remind parents and caregivers that safe seats for children do not end when they turn four years old. Unfortunately, the percentage of children aged four to seven who are buckled into booster seats has not increased this year, remaining a rather low 41%.
This is distressing because research demonstrates that buckling children into booster seats significantly reduces their injury risk.
There is no way to sugar-coat the fact that, last year, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for young people ages 3 to 14. In 2009, an average of four children age 14 and younger were killed and 490 were injured every day.
But this does not have to happen. Make no mistake about it: child safety seats save lives. Children who graduate too soon from their safety seats or booster seats are at risk.
So, this week and every week, please ensure that you're using the appropriate seat every time you drive with a child, whether you're going on a long trip or just around the corner. And please make sure child safety seats are installed correctly; your children's lives depend on it.