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Oregon Family Magazine

Car Seats and Seat Belts Save Lives

04/01/2018 22:05 ● By Sandy Kauten
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released the results of a one-year study that found more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode unrestrained at least some of the time. And of the children who died in car crashes in 2015, 35 percent were not buckled up, or were buckled improperly. Parents can help protect their children by understanding which type of seat to use during each stage of their child’s development.

Car seat laws in Oregon have recently become stricter, thanks in part to lobbying efforts by pediatric physicians from Eugene and Springfield.

Current Oregon laws:

  • Infants and toddlers: All infants and toddlers must ride in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years old. However, experts recommend staying rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of the seat, even after age 2.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers: Children should ride in the back seat, in a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness. They must remain in that seat until they reach the weight limit imposed by the seat's manufacturer, normally 50-70 pounds.  
  • School-aged children: Once a child has outgrown a car seat, they must move to a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years old AND 4 feet, 9 inches tall. 
  • Older children: Children are ready to use the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts in the back seat once they are between the ages of 8-13, and are large enough that the belt fits them properly. A secure fit is when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck).
  • Ages 13+: Teens may sit in the front passenger seat with a seat belt; however, sitting in the backseat is always safer.

It’s tempting to allow your pre-teen to sit in the front seat, but don’t do it. All children 12 and under should be kept in the backseat because it is furthest away from three things responsible for most injuries: the windshield, the dashboard and the airbag.

Remember, too, that seat belts are required for EVERY trip in a motor vehicle, no matter how short the distance. It’s also important for adults to model good car safety by wearing their own seatbelts. Let’s work together as a community to keep kids safe on the roads.

By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.,  Eugene Pediatric Associates, Eugene OR