Car seat safety: Common Mistakes & Tips

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for all children. In fact, 94% of car seats in Dallas County aren’t installed properly. Child safety seats, or car seats, reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% in comparison to children in seat belts alone. Booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45% among 4 to 8 year olds. Seat belts and car seats contact the strongest parts of the body, spread crash forces over a wide area, help the body slow down and protect the brain and spinal cord. Research tells us that safety belts and car seats are the most effective devices in preventing serious injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that require child seat use; however, numerous gaps and inconsistencies exist.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fewer than one quarter of families use their child’s car seat properly. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent. Car seat safety is crucial for protecting your child during travel, but knowing how to safely buckle up your child as he or she grows can be difficult. Below are common mistakes and tips for car seat safety:

Know the car seat’s history – If you’re considering a used car seat for your child, check the car seat thoroughly. If you don’t know the car seat’s history, don’t use it. Buy it from someone you know, not from a thrift store or over the Internet.

Place the car seat in the right spot – The safest place for your child’s car seat is the back seat, away from active air bags. If you’re placing only one car seat in the back seat, install it in the center of
the seat.

Correctly install the car seat or buckle up your child – Before you install a car seat, read the manufacturer’s instructions and the section on car seats in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Recline your child at the correct angle – In the rear-facing position, recline the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions so that your child’s head doesn’t flop forward.

Don’t dress your child in bulky outerwear – If it’s cold, dress your baby in a lightweight jacket and hat. Buckle the harness snugly and then tuck a blanket around your baby for warmth.

Don’t use a booster seat too soon – You can switch from a car seat to a booster seat when your child has topped the highest weight — typically 40 to 80 pounds. Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt — never a lap-only belt.

Don’t use the vehicle safety belt too soon – Most kids can safely use an adult seat belt sometime between ages 8 and 12.

Know your state’s car seat lawsTexas law says that all children under 8 must ride in a car seat or booster seat (certain height considerations apply).

If you have questions about child passenger safety laws or need help installing a car seat, participate in a local car seat clinic or inspection event. You can also check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for help finding a car seat inspection station. Also consider having an expert check the seat. To find a certified technician, call (866) SEAT-CHECK.