Experts say at least 80 percent are not
Proper Child Safety Seat Use Chart
If you are the parent of an infant or toddler, you probably secure your child in a car seat several times a week. In the rush to get your children and their belongings in the car, don’t forget to check regularly to ensure your child’s safety seat is properly installed.
If it isn’t, your child is at increased risk for injury – or even death.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In the United States during 2001, 1,579 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes; about 228,000 were injured. Of the children ages 4 and younger who were killed, almost 50 percent were completely unrestrained. Many children who ride in child safety seats are not properly secured. A survey involving almost 6,000 children found that only 21 percent of children in safety seats were correctly harnessed into seats that were correctly installed.
Putting your children in proper restraints is the most important step you can take to protect them from harm in the event of a car accident. “Regardless of how far you are going, you can’t guarantee your child will be safe. Put your child in an infant seat, toddler seat, booster seat, or safety belt – whatever is appropriate for their age,” said Diane Bell, director of Think First, a Baptist Memorial Health Care injury prevention program.
To ensure your child is as safe as possible, please follow these tips:
Read the installation directions: Many people don’t read the safety seat’s directions, Bell said. Don’t assume you know how to install it. Each seat is different.
Make sure the seat is installed as securely as possible. You should only be able to move the car seat one inch or less once it is installed, said Deputy of the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department in Arkansas. He conducts safety seat clinics throughout the state.
Infants should always be rear-facing. Children should be 1 year old AND 20 pounds before turning the seat to a forward-facing position, he said. An infant’s neck is not developed enough to be properly protected in a forward-facing seat, he said. During a collision a rear-facing safety seat will be pushed against the back of the front seat – creating a cocoon that will help to protect the infant.
Install seats in the back. Car seats should always be placed in the back seat of a vehicle – in the middle of the back seat if possible. If not, the passenger’s side is safer than the driver’s side, he said. NEVER place your child in the front seat.
Secure your child in the seat properly. The belt retainer clip (the “buckle” that keeps the seat’s straps in place) should rest at the top of your child’s armpits and you should only be able to get one finger underneath it. If you place the clip too high you child could choke. If you place it lower, it will not provide proper protection, he said.
Fill out the seat’s registration card and send it in: When you mail in the registration card, the manufacturer can contact you if the car seat is ever recalled or to provide any new information.
Call the manufacturer with questions. The manufacturer has trained staff members to answer questions specifically about that product. The phone number will be in the literature that comes with the seat.
Attend a safety seat clinic. Organizations or businesses in your area may hold safety seat clinics. If you are interested in attending a clinic or having your safety seat inspected by a trained professional, call your local police or sheriff’s department, bum said. Baby supply stores and car dealerships may have clinics, too. Make sure the individual who inspect your seat has received training.
It is also very important to make sure your child is using the proper restraint device for his or her age, height, and weight. Click here for an informational chart.
Another thing you can do to ensure your child’s safety is to stick a label on the child safety seat with your child’s name and an emergency contact number in case of a crisis situation, he said. Officials will know who to contact on behalf of your child.
Ensuring your child is properly secured in an appropriate safety seat is one of the most important things you can do for your child.