Every single trip

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2017

If you’re old enough to be reading this page of the newspaper, it’s pretty likely that someone you know and love grew up riding in the backseat of cars without so much as a seatbelt.

Times have changed — and in this case, the change is most definitely a good thing. Seatbelts and other safety restraints and devices in automobiles have drastically reduced the danger to vehicles’ occupants during crashes. Even as American drivers continue to travel cumulatively more miles than ever, the number of annual traffic fatalities per billion miles traveled continues to fall. The continued improvement of safety features contributes heavily to that improving safety record.

But safety is as safety does.

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In the case of an auto accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control, seatbelts cut the risk of death or serious injury by about half. Booster seats used in conjunction with seatbelts can cut the risk of serious injury by 41 percent for children aged 4 to 8. And car seats can cut the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers 1 to 4 years of age.

But none of those things will help at all if you don’t use them, if they’re not working properly or if they’re damaged in some way.

Some local organizations are holding an event this month that’s meant to bring attention to the need for the safe use of child safety seats. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to turn in child safety seats that may be unsafe due to age, damage, a product recall or because they have unknown history.

The “Child Seat Round Up” is a project of Drive Safe Hampton Roads, AAA Tidewater, Walmart and other organizations.

Car seats that are more than six years old, have parts missing, have been in the car during a moderate or severe crash, have been subject to a recall or have unknown history should not be used, officials say.

To encourage people to get rid of potentially unsafe car seats, Walmart is offering a $5 gift card for each seat — up to a maximum of two per person — turned in during the car seat roundup during February. The car seats can be turned in at any AAA Tidewater branch, including the one at 3529 Bridge Road in Suffolk, as well as most Hampton Roads Walmart locations, including the one on College Drive in Suffolk — but excluding the one on North Main Street.

Check your child’s car seat. Make sure it meets the safety standards. And then use it. Every single trip.