Most parents fail car seat safety test, study reveals

by Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

As parents, we strive to do everything we can to keep our children safe within our vehicles – but as a new study reveals, even parents who felt well-educated about child safety seats still failed the most basic car installations, thereby accidentally increasing the risk of life-threatening

personal injury

to their children.

After reviewing 79,000 car seat checklists, the study conducted by

Safe Kids USA

shows that most parents confess a sense of unfamiliarity when using the buckles and straps of the car seats – and only 30 percent are using the tether straps correctly. The tether straps are essential for securing a child’s head in the event of a car accident, which can significantly reduce the chance for injury.

The study may coincide with findings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on child death rates resulting from car accidents. In their findings, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14, and while car seats decreased risk by 71 percent in infants and 54 percent in toddlers, many parents who have misused the safety devices attribute for the staggering death rates of children involved in car accidents.

Reducing accident risk: get to know the car seat

Getting to know your child’s car seat -- including the proper tightness, angle, and direction of the seat – can significantly reduce the chance of injury in the event of an accident. In addition to reading the safety and user manuals, consider reading and sharing the following safety tips for increased awareness. Remember: every car seat is different, so contact the manufacturer if you run into any snags or issues along the way.

Children under 2 should always stay rear-facing

Your baby should always be seated in the back of your vehicle facing your back window. Never place your baby in the front seat, even if they are positioned towards the rear of the car.

Change seats as children grow

Just like clothes, toys, food, and furniture, children have an uncanny way of outgrowing things just as soon as parents become used to it. Child seats are not any different. Make sure you stay aware of age limitations on your child seat and upgrade to the next size as soon as your child reaches the appropriate age or weight and height limitations.

Use the tether straps supplied by the seat

By far, the greatest threat to child safety while positioned in a child car seat is the misuse of the tether straps. Many parents may be surprised to know that tether straps have been installed on car seats for a decade now, and are designed to improve the installation of the car seat while avoiding the use of easy-to-tangle seat belts. Tethers are also a part of the government’s LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system which, with its $152 million federal grant, was designed to safely secure the seats to prevent up to 3,600 child injuries per year, the NHTSA reported. But surprisingly, parents are unaware of the devices or simply do not know how to use them, resorting to using seatbelts to secure the child seats.

Tethers are essential to keeping your child safe and secure in the event of a

car accident

, and can make the all difference in saving a life. To learn more about your child’s tethers and LATCH system, refer to its manual or call the manufacturer as every child seat can vary from make, model, and style.

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