Updated September 2015
It’s a daunting task that all new parents must face: properly using and securing safety seats for their children. While built to be a safe as possible, automobiles of all types can be dangerous, especially for your passengers – a fact that can be exacerbated if young ones are not properly restrained.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 12 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids are coming together to kick off Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 13-19) and Seat Check Saturday (Sept. 19) and remind parents and caregivers to make sure that they are properly using and installing child safety seats. You can find a certified car seat technician near you by filling out a simple form on the Safe Kids Worldwide website.
Safe Kids and NHTSA are encouraging everyone to take 15 minutes to conduct an at-home checkup using the following Safe Kids downloadable checklist:
- Right Seat. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height.
- Right Place. Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13. Doing this, along with correctly using the appropriate child restraints, may greatly reduce the risk of injury.
- Right Direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
- Inch Test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
- Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
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Purchasing the right seat is one thing, but proper installation can be tricky. A 2012 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that parents are making five significant mistakes when using car seats and booster seats. It also found that one in five parents do not read any instructions when installing seats. They are:
- Wrong harness slot used: The harness straps used to hold the child in the car seat were positioned either too low or too high;
- Chest clip in wrong position: Harness chest clip positioned over the abdomen rather than the chest or not used at all;
- Loose car seat installation: The restraint system moved more than two inches side-to-side or front to back; anything more than one inch is too much.
- Loose harness: More than two inches of total slack between the child and the harness strap; there should be no slack.
- Seat belt placement was wrong: Lap belt resting over the stomach and/or shoulder belt on the child’s neck or face.
The survey also revealed that 20 percent of all drivers of child passengers did not read any instructions on how to properly install their child restraints, yet 90 percent felt ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that their car seats and booster seats were installed correctly.
For more information and tips on child passenger safety, visit www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS and www.safekids.org.