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DC Will Check Safety Seats

The District is inviting city parents to bring their vehicles in on Saturday for a free inspection to make sure their children's car seats are installed properly.

Many safety experts are concerned about the seats. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that nationwide three out of four are improperly installed.

The D.C. event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the D.C. Armory, 2400 E. Capitol Street NE. Bring the kids. The technicians need them there to properly inspect the seats. (Some of the technicians will be Spanish speakers.)

A limited number of child safety seats will be provided free of charge to needy families while supplies last, says the District Department of Transportation, which is sponsoring the event along with the D.C. police department.

Other jurisdictions have their own programs to help. In Fairfax County, for example, residents can make appointments with the police department to check the seat installations.

General Advice:

All children 12 and younger should ride in the back seat. The Safety Administration has a safety program called 4 Steps for Kids, refering to their stages of development as car passengers.

1) Keep infants in rear-facing child safety seats in the back seat of the car for until they reach the height or weight limit of the particular safety seat. At a minimum, do this until they are at least a year old and weigh 20 pounds.

2) When children outgrow the rear-facing seats, put them in forward-facing safety seats in the back seat of the vehicle until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat, which would likely happen around the age of 4 and a weight of 40 pounds.

3) Once children outgrow those seats, they should ride in the back seat in booster seats until the vehicle's seat belts fit right. (Children usually outgrow the boosters around age 8, or when they're about 4 feet 9 inches tall.)

4) They're ready for seat belts if the belts will fit them properly, meaning the belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder harness fits across the chest.

The Safety Administration also has a Web page that let's you search to find out whether a child safety restraint has been the subject of a recall.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 18, 2008; 6:37 AM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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