HARLINGEN — When used correctly, properly installed car seats have the power to save children’s lives.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) kicked off its annual “Save Me With a Seat” campaign this month, in correlation with National Child Passenger Safety week, which is held from Sept. 20 through Sept. 26.
TxDOT is continuing to conduct free safety seat inspections this year, however, they are being held virtually.
“Starting this month, we will be rolling out virtual car seat checks to enable us to maintain the same level of service and provide education to families while following social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19,” a TxDOT press release states.
This year’s campaign features a branded truck that will visit six cities in Texas to spread the car seat safety message to communities across the state. The press release states it will be a contactless experience and the driver will utilize COVID-19 safety precautions, such as wearing a mask and gloves.
According to the press release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 59 percent of all child car seats are being misused.
The press release states that the statistic is even more alarming given that vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children in the nation.
“When child car seats are installed correctly they keep children as safe as possible during a crash,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass stated. “We urge parents and caregivers to ensure they are securing their children properly in a vehicle and using the appropriate child car seat for their child’s age and size.”
Families can visit www.savemewithaseat.org to set up an appointment for a one-on-one TxDOT virtual car seat check. A mobile electronic device with video and audio capabilities, such a cellphone, laptop or tablet is needed for the virtual car seat check.
According to the NHTSA, child car seats in passenger vehicles can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.
In 2019, 77 children younger than eight years old died in traffic crashes in Texas, and 26 of those were unrestrained at the time of the crash. Among children ages eight to 12 in 2019, 42 died in traffic crashes, with 18 of them unrestrained at the time of the crash.
According to Texas law, all children younger than eight are to be in a car seat whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle, unless they are taller than 4 feet, 9 inches.
Children younger than age 13 should ride in the back seat while properly secured in a seat belt or safety seat.
Failure to properly restrain a child could result in a ticket of up to $250.
According to the press release, Nov. 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.
The Save Me With a Seat campaign is a component of TxDOT’s End the Streak campaign, which was created in an effort to encourage drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel.
TxDOT recommends drivers conduct safe roadway practices, such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, refraining from texting and driving and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.