National Child Passenger Safety Week - How to protect your kids

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PHOENIX – This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week.

“Every year, the No. 1 cause of fatalities for all children is car crashes,” said Debbie Hersman, head of the National Transportation Safety Board. “These are accidents that occur on the roadways and the injuries – the fatalities – are preventable. “If you restrain your children properly in a size-appropriate restraint, you can protect them,” she continued.

Hersman said the story about the Maricopa 3-year-old who was killed when he fell out of a moving SUV illustrates just how important it is to properly restrain kids in vehicles at all times.

“Accidents can happen in any situation,” she said.

Laurie Walker of Safe Kids USA talked about importance of making sure child safety seats are properly installed and in good condition.

While this Saturday is National Seat Check Saturday, Walker said Safe Kids USA has seat-check events going on all throughout the year.

The idea is to teach parents the right way to put their child safety seat into their vehicle. Parents can also learn exactly what kids of seat their children need.

“Many families will learn that they’ve moved their child too quickly from one seat to the next or that they’re using an improper seat,” Walker explained. “We’ll help them with that.”

Arizona law requires children 5 and younger to be properly secured in a child passenger restraint system. There is no height or weight requirement. Violations are subject to a civil penalty of $50. That fine can be waived if the cited driver proves that he or she has subsequently purchased and installed a child passenger restraint system.

While Arizona does not require that children older than 5 ride in booster seats, statistics show that they can save lives.

According to a lobbyist for State Farm, regular seat belts can cause severe abdominal injuries to young children because they are designed for adults and do not fit kids properly.

What's more, experts say children young than 13 should always ride in the back seat.

Several organizations, including AAA Arizona, have been working for years to implement stricter child-restraint laws in Arizona.

“By following current Arizona law, parents may unknowingly put their child’s safety in jeopardy,” said AAA  Arizona spokeswoman Linda Gorman when a measure to strengthen child passenger restraint laws was in the Legislature earlier this year.

National Child Passenger Safety Week culminates with National Seat Check Saturday on Sept. 24.