NOTE TO OUR READERS
We're right in the middle of National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 14-20), so it's a great time to remind parents to have child car seats checked. Did you know more than 800 children die and another 190,000 children are injured each year in car crashes? Many of these deaths and injuries can be prevented with properly installed car seats. Use this week as a time to get serious about safety and ensure you're using car seats correctly.
According to AAA Oklahoma, child safety 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. But it’s not easy to install car seats correctly. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3 out of 4 car seats are incorrectly installed.
“While significant strides have been made to make car seats easier to use, it’s still challenging, due to the many different designs of car seats and vehicles,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “AAA reminds parents to watch out for the top car seat mistakes. Some of them might surprise you, such as allowing children to wear bulky sweaters while in the seat, or turning your child forward-facing too soon.”
Oklahoma state law requires all children under age 13 to be restrained while riding in a moving vehicle and children under age 6 must be in a child car seat. In addition, seat belts are mandatory for all front seat passengers, no matter their age. AAA Oklahoma says these are the most common car seat and booster seat mistakes:
Top Car Seat Mistakes
Moving your child out of a booster seat too soon.
What AAA recommends: Keep your children in booster seats until the seat belt fits them properly. Children should be able to sit with their back against the seat, knees bending at the edge of the seat and feet touching the floor. The lap belt should be positioned low across their hips and upper thighs with the shoulder belt across their chest and collarbone. Depending on your child’s growth and development, a seat belt typically fits correctly between ages 8 and 12.
Not installing the car seat tightly enough.
What AAA recommends: The car seat should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when tested at the belt path.
Harness straps are too loose.
What AAA recommends: Harness straps should lay flat and not have any twists. Be sure the harness is snug enough that you cannot pinch any extra material at the child’s shoulder
Retainer clip (or chest clip) is too low.
What AAA recommends: Place the retainer clip at armpit level.
Turning your child forward facing too soon.
What AAA recommends: A child should remain in a rear-facing seat as long as possible until they reach the upper weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Once your child outgrows a rear-facing infant seat, switch to a rear-facing convertible car seat with higher height and weight limits.
Allowing a child under the age of 13 to ride in the front seat.
What AAA recommends: All children under age 13 should be properly restrained in the back seat.
Installing a car seat using both latch and a seat belt.
What AAA recommends: In this case, two is not better than one. Install the car seat in approved seating positions with latch or the seat belt. Do not use more than one system unless the car seat manufacturer and vehicle manufacturer permit it.
Wearing bulky coats/sweaters while buckled into a car seat.
What AAA recommends: Place blankets or jackets over the child after the harness is snug and secure.
Top Booster Seat Mistakes
Letting your child use a regular seat belt too soon.
What AAA recommends: Use a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits properly with the lap portion of the belt fitting low across the child’s hips and the shoulder belt across their sternum and collar bone. Proper belt fit may not be possible in some cases until age 12 or 13.
Allowing children to place the seat belt under their arm or behind their back when using a booster seat.
What AAA recommends: Make sure children wear their seat belt properly with their booster seat and remain in proper position the whole trip.
Skipping a booster seat when carpooling or riding with friends.
What AAA recommends: Don’t compromise safety for convenience. Use a booster on every trip and make arrangements in advance when carpooling to ensure your child has their booster seat.
Using a low back booster in a seat without head rests.
What AAA recommends: Make sure your vehicle has head restraints to protect your child before considering using a backless booster seat. If not, use a high back seat that offers head/neck protection.
Not buckling in empty booster seats.
What AAA recommends: Buckle up booster seats even when children are not riding in the car to keep yourself and other passengers safe.
In honor of this national week of awareness, Safe Kids Oklahoma is offering a handful of car seat check-up events thorughout the state. Click here to find one near you. Click here for an insightful infographic on booster seat safety.
In addition, certified child car seat technicians are on staff at select AAA Oklahoma offices and will check car seat installations at no charge. Appointments are required, so call (918) 748-1074. For more information about child car seat safety, visit SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com.