Five words a parent never wants to say: “If only I had known.” And yet sometimes, we just don’t know.
Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 12 and under, with a crash happening every 13 seconds. Research shows that most crashes include car seat installation and/or harnessing misuse. The reality is, when it comes to car seat safety, it can be just plain confusing. But here’s the good news, we can get this right. We must.
Did you know as many as 90% of us are incorrectly using or installing our children’s car seats?
While car seat misuses are specific to the car, car seat, child and installer, at Tampa-based car safety consultant Safe in the Seat, we’ve identified five main areas where mistakes are often made:
1. What’s the Rush?
Your car seat cost a pretty penny; use it until your child reaches its maximum age, weight or height limits. Children are often prematurely moved to the next stage of car seat safety. Beyond physical measurements, also consider emotional maturity.
2. Wiggle with It
Try before you buy! Not all car seats properly fit in all cars or all seating positions. Assuming yours does, the car seat shouldn’t move more than one-inch side-to-side, front-to-back, up-and-down. Get a tight fit using the seatbelt or lower anchor and tether (LATCH) method. Both methods are equally safe—use what provides a wiggle-free installation. And, don’t forget about that tether if forward-facing!
3. It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right
A properly installed car seat without a properly harnessed child isn’t a safe combination. If your child is using a five-point harness, shoulder straps must be in the correct position, chest clips must be at armpit level and the harness must be tight. If your child is in a booster, pay close attention to where the shoulder belt lies on the chest and thighs and assess his or her ability to sit properly for the duration of the ride.
4. Not All (Used) Car Seats Are Created Equal
Hand-me-down and used car seats shouldn’t be expired, missing parts, have unfixed recalls, traveled under an airplane, been cleaned with harsh chemicals or been in a crash. If it isn’t safe for your child, it isn’t safe for ANY child!
5. Safety Starts With You
Every time you get in the car, buckle up and be sure all road warriors do the same. Make seat belts cool again. Wearing one is the single greatest thing we can do to prevent injury and death in a car crash. It’s a no-brainer that we all want our kids to be safe, but car seat safety is far from intuitive. One hundred percent of the of the families we work with at Safe in the Seat have had at least one major unintended misuse. This National Child Passenger Safety Week, spend some time with your car and car seat manuals. Make it a family affair as you double- check to be sure everyone is safe in their seat.
Need help? Find a child passenger safety technician to help you navigate the sometimes bumpy road of car seat safety. The struggle is real and we’re here for you and your precious cargo!