The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids Organization are promoting this week as “Child Passenger Safety Week” to help educate parents and babysitters and family members who cart children around in cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans, and the like are aware of the importance of using child safety seats. Problems are not only that some people are not using these car seats, but that those who are using them may not be using them correctly, which means that the car seats will not protect the child in the event of a car crash.
“The key to keeping kids safe is to make sure your child is in the right seat for their age and size – and to make sure that the seat is correctly installed in your vehicle,” said Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of the many resources available to ensure you’ve done everything to properly protect your child.”
According to NHTSA, the five most common mistakes made when using car seats or booster seats 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;
- 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.
To help parents ensure their child seats are installed and used correctly, NHTSA encourages following this Safe Kids 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, greatly reduces 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.
Child Passenger Safety Week runs from September 16 to September 22, 2012. If you have properly used a car seat, and your child has been seriously injured or has tragically died in a car accident, then there may be a design defect or other issue that is the cause of the tragedy. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the main causes of death for children and teenagers in this country and while errors in car seat installation or use may be a contributing factor, it may not be real cause and investigation may be necessary.