Pretty much every parent these days is aware of the laws and recommendations surrounding car seats. All children are required to have car seats or booster seats until they are 12 years old. Infants should ride in rear-facing seats, small children should ride in forward-facing seats, and older children should have a booster seat until the seat belt fits without crossing their arms or neck. These days, most hospitals won’t even let you take your new baby home unless you have a car seat installed and baby goes in the car seat.
I think most of us are fully aware of the necessity of car seats. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 3-14, and car seats have helped to save thousands of children’s lives over the years.
What a lot of parents don’t know is that car seats are installed improperly far more often than they are installed properly, and most of the time, parents are not aware that their children’s car seats are not properly installed. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that while 3/4 of car seat novices who installed a car seat believed they had installed it properly, only 1/4 of novices actually did it correctly. Even experienced parents and caregivers installed car seats incorrectly nearly half the time.
Among the most common errors? Loose installation, twisted anchor straps, improper strap routing, inappropriate recline position, and inappropriate handle position. Errors were higher for those using the LATCH system. All of these errors make car seats less effective, and less safe, if you get in an accident.
The best way to ensure you have your car seat installed properly is to have your car seat inspected. There are many places you can go–local fire and police departments, hospitals, government offices, insurance companies, and car seat safety organizations– to have you car seat installation inspected for free. You can use NHTSA’s Car Seat Inspector Station Locator tool to find places near you where you can have your installation checked.
Considering the high rate of misuse (and the high rate of over-confidence among users), and the fact that the inspection services are free, I highly recommend that all parents get their car seats checked out. After all, it could save your child’s life.
- Register your car seat so that you can get recall notices on your car seat.
- The Car Seat Lady provides car seat buying guides, classes on car seat safety (in certain areas), and information about child safety when using mass and public transit.