How old should children be to ride shotgun? What type of car seat is safest for an infant? Should toddlers and babies face the same way in their protective seats?

The Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health, medical professionals and law enforcement officials are joining hands Feb. 9-15, encouraging parents to provide a Safe Ride for Every Child. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children younger than 14. Therefore, media coverage and special events during Child Passenger Safety Week will help parents learn and follow basic steps for safety. The five basic steps are:

* Babies should ride in rear-facing child seat in the back seat of a vehicle until they turn one and reach at least 20 pounds.

* Once children grow too big for a rear-facing seat, they should remain in the back seat, riding in a forward-facing seat until they turn four and reach at least 40 pounds.

* Children who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are between ages four and eight also should remain in the back seat, using a booster seat.

* If a child is eight or older, is taller than four feet nine inches and weighs at least 80 pounds, he or she can use a seat belt. Children should be able to sit all the way back with their knees bent at the edge of the seat. The lap belt should fit across the tops of their thighs, with the shoulder belt across the center of their shoulders and chest.

* A child should not ride in the front seat unless he or she is at least 12 years old.

While many infants and toddlers ride in the proper child safety seat, fewer than 10 percent of children who should ride in booster seats use one. A booster seat lifts a child up so he or she can correctly use a seat belt. As with any other child restraint, parents should place a booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle.

"Using the correct child restraint is not only necessary, it's the law," said Department of Health Secretary David W. Hood. "All parents should educate themselves on child safety and injury prevention. It's one of the most important things they can do to protect their children."

Throughout 2003, local Injury Prevention Coordinators will educate childcare workers, parents and children on the importance of buckling up every child for every ride.
Please contact your regional OPH office to find out if activities are planned for your area. The OPH Offices are as follows:

OPH Region 1 Office - 1010 Common St., Suite 700, New Orleans (504) 599-0100
OPH Region 2 Office - 1772 Wooddale Blvd., Baton Rouge, (225) 925-7200
OPH Region 3 Office - 1434 Tiger Drive, Thibodaux (985) 447-0916
OPH Region 4 Office - Brandywine III, Suite 100, 825 Kaliste Saloom Road, Lafayette (337) 262-5311
OPH Region 5 Office - 4240 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, Lake Charles (337) 491-2040
OPH Region 6 Office - 1500 Lee St., Alexandria (318) 487-5262
OPH Region 7 Office - 1525 Fairfield Ave., Shreveport (318) 676-7489
OPH Region 8 Office - 2913 Betin St., Monroe (318) 362-5211
OPH Region 9 Office - 21454 Koop Drive, Suite. 1C, Mandeville (985) 871-1300

For more information, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site at and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Web site at