In September 2012 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the findings of its National Child Restraint Use Special Study, a national survey of child restraint system use in children from birth to age 8.
The study revealed five significant and common car seat mistakes.
1. Using the wrong harness slot. When it comes to car seat harnesses, best practice dictates that in rear-facing seats the slots at or below the child’s shoulders should be used. For forward-facing seats, the slots at or above the child’s shoulders should be used. According to the study, when the wrong slots are used it can increase the risk of excessive excursion.
2. Improper chest clip positioning. The proper place for the chest clip to be positioned is at armpit level. When the chest clip is positioned over the abdomen, down by the crotch, or not used at all it can also increase the risk of excessive excursion.
3. Loose installation. Car seats should not move more than one inch front to back or side-to-side across the belt path. Loose installation may allow for excessive movement of the seat which could increase the risk of injury.
4. Loose harness straps. The harness straps of a child’s car seat should be snug and there should be no slack when pinched at the child’s shoulder. Loose straps not only can result in a greater risk of excessive excursion, but can increase the risk of ejection and injury.
5. Improper belt positioning in booster seats. When riding in a booster seat, the lap belt should lie snugly across the child’s thighs, not across the stomach, and the shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder, and not the child’s neck, chest, or face. Improper positioning of seatbelts can increase the risk of excessive excursion and abdominal injury.
The study also cited that one in five parents do not read any instructions when installing their child’s car seat. Reading the car seat installation manual carefully can help prevent critical misuses that can increase the risk of injury in the event of a motor vehicle crash.
SafeKids and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator encourage everyone to conduct an at-home car seat safety check.
In addition to reading the car seat installation manual, parents and caregivers should be sure that:
1. The child is in the right seat for his age, weight, and height.
2. The car seat is placed in the back seat and that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat.
3. Children use rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, until he outgrows the seat.
4. The installed seat can’t be moved more than one inch front to back or side-to-side along the belt path.
5. The child’s harness is in the correct slots and that, when in use, they’re adjusted snugly with the chest clip at armpit level. Parents and caregivers should not be able to pinch the straps at the child’s shoulder once he’s properly fastened in.
When it comes to car seat safety, parents and caregivers must be on the same page. An agreement to follow best practices should be made and parents and caregivers should commit to ensuring that all passengers are properly secured in an appropriate car seat restraint system at all times.