Burlington, VT — Most car crashes in Vermont occur between November and January, and health officials say drivers should ensure children are buckled up safely and car or booster seats are installed properly.

Data shows that 47 percent of child car and booster seats are installed incorrectly.

“Safety is the number one priority for our children,” said Stephanie Busch, Injury Prevention Program manager with the Vermont Department of Health. “Whether your holiday travel plans involve driving to another state or just over the river and through the woods, we urge all drivers to make sure their kids are safe and secure in correctly installed car or booster seats.”

Busch noted a recent auto accident in the North Country that resulted in the death of a child who was in an adult seatbelt instead of the appropriate car seat. “These incredibly tragic incidents highlight the real importance of fastening children appropriately,” said Busch.

Health officials advise that children should only start transitioning to a seatbelt when they are big enough.

Best practices for keeping children safe while riding in vehicles:

  • Children under age 13 should always ride in the back seat.
  • Use the “5 step test” to determine when children are ready to use an adult seatbelt. http://www.beseatsmart.org/stage4/seat-belts.php
  • Vermont law requires children to be in a child safety seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old, but older children may need to use these until they are bigger.
  • Keep children in a forward-facing harnessed seat until they exceed the manufacturer’s height or weight limit.
  • Once children outgrow their harnessed car seat it is time to use a booster seat. At a minimum your child should be at least 5 or 6 years old to transition to a booster seat but waiting until they exceed the height or weight limit of their forward-facing car seat is safer!
  • Keep children in their rear-facing convertible car seat until they exceed the manufacturer’s height or weight limit. You may need to transition your child from a rear-facing only seat (the ones with the carrying handles) to a rear-facing convertible seat to maximize the protection your child can have by riding rear-facing.
  • Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat.

Vermonters are also reminded to be cautious of unpredictable weather conditions and icy roads.