FORT MYERS, Fla. — A three-year-old from Fort Myers was killed in a hit-and-run traffic crash in Polk County Sunday.
Florida Highway Patrol says 3-year-old Josiah King was sitting on the lap of a passenger in the back seat and was not restrained at the time of the crash. He died of his injuries.
According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, 675 children, 12 years old and younger, died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and nearly 116,000 were injured in 2017 — 35% of these children were not buckled in a car seat.
"The force of any car accident is greater than anybody can hold on to a child or hold on to themselves, so the only way to properly restrain a child is in a safety seat," said John Risk, Field Insurance Manger of AAA Fort Myers.
Risk, who is a certified car seat technician, says all data shows that kids are safer when properly restrained in a car seat or booster.
Risk says when choosing a car seat, parents should consider a child's size and weight rather than age.
He also adds that it is also essential to read the vehicle's manufacturer manual.
"Just to give an example, I was in one car that had three rows, and the manufacturer said you couldn't put a car seat on one of the seats," said Risk.
Another key to ensuring parents install the car seat correctly is to make sure the car seat does not move backwards or forwards more than an inch, said Risk.
Parents can visit AAA Fort Myers to have a certified car seat technician verify their car seat is correctly installed.
Another organization stepping in to ensure kids' safety is Safe Kids Southwest Florida, which is led by the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Safe Kids, along with multiple local law enforcement agencies, hold car seat safety events to help parents learn how to install car seats properly.
"70 to 90 percent of car seats are installed improperly, and not using a car seat properly could be extremely dangerous," said Sally Kreuscher, Safe Kids Coordinator.
At the car seat safety events, certified car seat technicians verify the car seat is installed correctly and depending on grants and donations, they may have car seats for families who cannot afford one.
Kreuscher says parents can also visit ultimatecarseatguide.org for more car seat safety tips.
Parents can also visit the Safe Kids Southwest Florida Facebook for future car seat safety inspection events.