Seat Belts, Child Seats, and Air Bags

Child Safety Seats

Why are child safety seats and inspections so important?

Each year about 600 to 700 children, birth to 5 years of age, are killed and about 80,000 are injured as passengers in motor vehicle crashes. The number of annual child passenger fatalities has fluctuated considerably over the past decade. Studies of factors that might contribute to these annual variations suggest that the overriding factor is travel exposure--changes in the amount of time that children spend each year in motor vehicles. It appears that during the late 1980's, when child safety seat use increased rapidly, the positive effect of child safety seat use was overwhelmed by an increase in child travel exposure. In 1995, about 56 percent of those children who were killed were completely unrestrained at the time of the crash. Child safety seats could have saved most of those children who died unrestrained--about 200 children could have been saved in 1995.

As many as three-quarters of child safety seats are misused--reducing their effectiveness in a crash. Frequent mistakes include failure to use a locking clip and/or chest clip where needed and improper use of the child seat harness straps.

Not all child safety seats fit all cars. Compatibility problems can make it difficult or impossible to correctly install a child seat in some vehicles. Common compatibility problems include vehicle safety belts that cannot be made to tightly lock a child seat in place, and vehicle seat belt attachment points that are positioned so that the seat belt cannot hold the child seat securely.

Passenger-side air bags are effective at saving adult lives, but present a deadly compatibility problem for children. Infants less than 1 year of age must never ride in the front seat in a rear-facing safety seat in a vehicle with a passenger air bag. In a crash, the deploying bag could strike the rear facing infant seat very hard, seriously injuring or killing the infant. Older children who are improperly restrained are also at high risk. All children are safer in the back seat. Infants must ride in the rear seat, facing the rear of the car. Guidelines have been recently changed that recommend children ride rear-facing until they are 2 years of age. More information on this updated guideline can be found from the American Academy of Pediatrics and CNN.

Air Bags

Air bags work very well to protect adults and older children who ride facing the front of a vehicle and are properly buckled up. So...

What is the Problem?

Air bags inflate very quickly and with such force that they can seriously injure or kill:

  • An infant in a rear-facing child safety seat positioned in front of an air bag
    AIR BAGS DO NOT WORK WITH REAR-FACING INFANT OR CONVERTIBLE CHILD SAFETY SEATS.
    BECAUSE OF THEIR PROXIMITY TO THE DASHBOARD, REAR-FACING CHILD SAFETY SEATS COULD BE STRUCK NEAR THE CHILD'S HEAD BY THE AIR BAG COMPARTMENT COVER WHEN IT DEPLOYS.
  • An unbuckled child of any age riding in the front seat
  • An unbuckled child standing near the dashboard

What are the solutions?

  • Secure all children in the safest place in a vehicle - the rear seat - whenever possible.
  • Place an infant in a rear-facing child safety seat in the rear seat of a vehicle if it has a passenger side air bag.
  • Make sure that everyone in the front seat is properly buckled up and seated as far back from the air bag as possible.
  • Make sure that all young children are properly secured in a child safety seat and older children by a lap/shoulder belt.
  • Know how to properly install your child safety seat in your vehicle and the instructions for your child safety seat.

Need more information?

  • Write or Call:
  • lllinois Department of Transportation
    Division of Traffic Safety
    3215 Executive Park Drive
    P.O. Box 19245
    Springfield, Il 62794-9245

    Phone 217-782-5865