Parents go to great lengths to protect their children’s safety, and one step every parent should take is to make sure their kids are tucked away in a child safety seat whenever they’re in the car. The somewhat alarming truth, however, is that four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly or aren’t appropriate for the child using them, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign. Worse, the group says, those mistakes can be deadly in a serious car accident. In 2001, for example, some 31,700 kids were injured in car wrecks while using child safety seats, and 200 died.
It can be a challenge to ensure you have the appropriate car seat or booster seat for your child, particularly since the device needs to be replaced as your child grows. Using the correct child restraint system is critical for safety, and it also builds the habit of wearing a seatbelt on every car trip. To promote the proper use of child car seats, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a great list of tips:
- The right car seat needs to fit both your child and your vehicle. Choose a seat intended for your child’s age and height — and use it every single time.
- Check online with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if the seat has been recalled. If it has, contact the manufacturer to see if the problem can be fixed.
- Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions AND your vehicle owner’s manual when installing car seats and booster seats, with special attention to your vehicle’s specific height and weight limits for safety belts.
- While you do need to replace your car seat when your child no longer meets the height and weight limits listed by the manufacturer, don’t replace the seat too early. Continue to use the same seat until your child exceeds the manufacturer limits.
- If you’re using a second-hand car seat, be certain it has no visible damage or missing parts or labels, and that it has never been involved in a moderate or severe car accident, such as one with injuries.
- Once a kid has graduated from the booster seat, they should still ride in the back seat and wear a seat belt.
Finally, NHTSA has an online list of certified child passenger safety technicians who are available to help you find the right child restraint system and install it correctly. California’s list is available at Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator – California.
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SafeCar.gov, “Car Seats & Booster Basics”; “Get Help”