Child car seat use seen as rife with hazardous errors

A five-step checklist can help assure your child's safety.

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Parents are making five critical but fixable mistakes when using car seats, according to new data announced recently by Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation.

With so many safety features now available in both cars and car seats, parents are urged to make sure their kids are getting every advantage by taking the time to do a 15-minute at-home annual checkup.

Seventy-three percent of car seats are not being used correctly. To find out why, Safe Kids analyzed data from more than 100,000 car seat inspections done by certified technicians conducted through its Buckle Up Program, a national initiative established in 1997 by Safe Kids and supported by General Motors and the General Motors Foundation.

Some findings showed progress is being made, including that 98 percent of children arrived at car seat inspections in the back seat and 98 percent of the children using some type of restraint.

Yet, the data revealed that parents and caregivers still have some work to do to ensure their children are restrained properly. Five safety steps every parent should take include keeping their children in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, ideally until age 2, selecting the correct seat for the weight, height or age of the child, tightening the harness enough and knowing when to let kids ride in the front seat.

“Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent,” said Susan Anfinson, Safe Kids Blue Mountain coordinator, in a news release. “Engineers are working hard to ensure cars and car seats are designed to keep kids as safe as possible. But it’s up to every parent to take full advantage of these innovations by making sure car seats are used and installed correctly. Safe Kids and the General Motors Foundation are teaming up to show them how.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death to children ages 1 to 13, according to the release. In a nationwide effort to educate parents about the importance of car seat safety during Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 16-22), Safe Kids and the General Motors Foundation are asking every parent to take 15 minutes for an at-home car seat checkup using the Safe Kids downloadable checklist.

Car seat checkup checklist

  • Right seat. This is an easy one. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
  • 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.
  • Right direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. 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. Continue to use a booster seat until your child properly fits in the seat belt, usually when they are between the ages of 8 and 12.
  • 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 car seat 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.

The checklist takes only a few minutes to complete and provides important tips that will help parents ensure their car seat is used and installed properly.

For parents who want additional assistance, Safe Kids Blue Mountain will host a car seat safety check on Saturday, September 22. It will be at Dayl Graves, Inc at 1014 S. 9th Ave, Walla Walla, from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Parents can bring their car, car seat and child to this event. Certified child passenger safety technicians will be available to provide one-on-one “hands-on” help with installation.

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