Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for American children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) estimates over 3,300 children under the age of 13 die in car crashes every year. Sadly, approximately 40 percent of these tragic accidents are the result of poorly fit car seats.
Securing children in an appropriate car seat for their age and size is a vital step to protecting them in an accident. Hundreds of parents and guardians unknowingly make simple mistakes when fitting, installing, or buckling their children in a car seat. Some adults skip the car seat altogether. These simple errors could lead to life-threatening injuries if an accident occurs, including the onset of traumatic injuries from improperly placed straps or the possibility of ejection from the vehicle.
Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week is an annual safety campaign highlighting the importance of making sure children are properly fit and secured whenever in the car. Last month, the N.H.T.S.A., along with countless other local and national safety organizations, focused on educating parents and guardians on the importance of choosing the right car seat and provide resources on how to ensure a child is properly secured on every ride.
Car Seat Mistakes To Avoid
Car seats will not protect children in an accident if they are being used incorrectly. The N.H.T.S.A. estimates that three out of four car seats are not being used properly. Some of the most common mistakes include:
- Installation Errors: Common installation mistakes include wrong angles, using the wrong belt, not securing seat correctly, not following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Turning Car Seat Too Soon: According to new recommendations released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should keep their kids rear-facing as long as possible. Yet, several parents turn their kids around well before just because it’s easier.
- Not Using the Top Tether: The top tether of the car seat can keep children facing forward from toppling in a car accident. Fatherly reports more than 64% of parents don’t even use the top tether, and 50% aren’t attaching it correctly.
- Tightening Shoulder Harness Incorrectly: Leaving space in the harness is extremely dangerous and can cause your child to slip out of the seat and be ejected from the car. There should be no slack in the shoulder harness.
- Letting Kids Wear Winter Coats: Winter coats can cause a child to be loosely secured in a seat, even if it appears the straps are tight. There are an extra four inches of space between the coat and the child that can cause a child to fly out easily.
- Choosing The Wrong Seat: If children are in a seat that is too big or too small, they can be seriously injured in a car accident without the proper protection for their bodies.
- Missing Recalls: Not sending in the registration form for your car seat can cause parents to miss important safety recalls for their products that could put your kids in danger.
The Worst Car Seats To Use
Car seats are expensive. The cost alone of a modern-day car seat is enough to hinder a parent’s choice to purchase a new one. But holding on to an older car seat or choosing a cheaper option may not be a safer alternative. Here are the types of car seats parents should avoid:
- Expired Seats: Car seats have expiration dates for a reason. According to Consumer Reports, car seat components break down over time. This can lead to safety features failing in the case of a crash. Car seats that are typically over six-years-old should be replaced with newer models.
- Car Seats That Have Been In Accidents: Car accidents apply a large amount of force on objects inside the car, including the seats. Safety experts recommend replacing car seats after an accident due to the stress placed on the safety components. Keeping seats after an accident could result in life-threatening injuries or the product to fail in a crash.
- Second-Hand Seats: Parents who buy second-hand seats do not know the history of the product. These models may have been subject to recalls, accidents, and other mistreatment that compromise their integrity and durability. The cost reduction is not worth the risk.
Best Car Seats of 2020
How do you know which car seat to choose? Child passenger safety seats should be determined by a child’s height, weight, and age. There are five types of car seats made for children: infant car seats, convertible car seats, booster seats, all-in-one car seats, and toddler booster seats. Each is designed to protect children up to a certain size and should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The number of choices for car seats can be overwhelming for parents, especially if this is their first time purchasing. Consumer Reports provides several resources parents can use to determine which seat is best for their child. Parents can also take advantage of the Find The Right Car Seat tool offered by the N.H.T.S.A.