The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project (PA TIPP) are encouraging drivers to take advantage of free car seat checks across the state as the agencies mark National Child Passenger Safety Week (CPSW) from September 17 through September 23. Additionally, Saturday, September 23 has been designated as "National Seat Check Saturday."
"Seat belts are your best defense in a crash, but they were created for adults," said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. "It's important that parents and caregivers take time this week to ensure they are using the right car seat or booster seat for their child's size and age."
Car seat checks will be held across the state the week of Child Passenger Safety Week. Visit PA TIPP's webpage for a list of events.
PSP personnel certified as Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians will be conducting free child seat fitting events across the state. Caregivers can have their car seats checked for suitability, receive instruction on the proper installation, have seat(s) installed, learn to properly harness a child in a seat and check seats for recalls. A full list of local free car seat fitting events is available on PSP's website.
"Properly installed child safety seats save lives, and it's vital that Pennsylvania's youngest passengers are safe when traveling," said PSP Commissioner Colonel Christopher Paris. "We encourage parents and caregivers to have their seats checked by a certified child passenger seat technician to ensure proper installation."
According to national statistics, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury by up to 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers; however,46 percent of car seats and booster seats are installed or used incorrectly. From January through June 2023, PSP members conducted 525 child safety seat inspections and discovered 207 incidents of misuse. PSP completed more than 1,000 checks in both 2021 and 2022 and found misuse rates of up to 40 percent.
To advance their public safety missions, PennDOT and PSP invest in community resources across the state. PennDOT funds resources such as training and educational materials for more than 200 fitting stations across Pennsylvania. In coordination with CPSW and Seat Check Saturday, local police will focus on proper child seat usage during a statewide CIOT Child Passenger Safety enforcement running from September 10 through September 23. In addition, each PSP Troop has designated walk in days where drivers can have their child safety seats checked free of charge year-round.
Pennsylvania's primary seat belt law requires all occupants younger than 18 to wear a seat belt when riding anywhere in a vehicle. Children under the age of two must be secured in a rear-facing car seat, and children under the age of four must be restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until their eighth birthday.
A secondary law also requires drivers and front-seat passengers 18 or older to buckle up. If motorists are stopped for a traffic violation and are not wearing their seat belt, they can receive a second ticket and second fine.
Because of the potential dangers associated with air bag deployment, children 12 and younger should always ride buckled in a vehicle's back seat.
"Car seats come in many shapes and sizes. The best way to protect your child is to select the right car seat for their age and size and to use the car seat correctly on every trip," said PA TIPP Director Angela Osterhuber. "Child passenger safety technicians are available to help parents learn how to keep their children safe and secure in their car seat."
PA TIPP also offers the following tips:
Select a car seat that is right for the child's age and size.
Fill out and return the registration card for your seat so you'll know if it is recalled because of a problem.
Read and follow the car seat instructions and the vehicle owner's manual for information on correctly installing the car seat in the vehicle.
Use the car's seat belt or the LATCH system when installing the car seat.
Make sure the car seat's harness is correctly adjusted and fits snugly.
Use a tether strap when installing a forward-facing car seat, following manufacturer's instructions.
For more information on how to keep passengers safe, or if you are unable to afford a car seat, call 1-800-CAR-BELT or visit www.PAKidsTravelSafe.org to find the nearest car seat loan program. Information on Child Safety Seat Inspection Stations and Community Car Seat Checkup Events is also available on the website.
For a list of state police car seat safety inspection locations and dates, visit the PSP Public Safety webpage.
For more information on child passenger safety, visit PennDOT's Safety Page.