Take a look at the cars whizzing by you. Many of them have children on board. Not a particularly shocking observation. However, what is surprising is that for every 10 of those cars, 7 have child safety restraints installed incorrectly or being used wrong. 70% is a chilling number. The good news is, a little education and the safety of the young passengers can be dramatically improved. Here are some commonly overlooked dangers:
The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
This system is intended to make it easier to install car seats properly. But, many people make the mistake of using both the LATCH and the seatbelt. It’s also intended to be used only in certain seats. Here’s a little known fact according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, LATCH has not been proven to be a safer option than a properly installed seat belt on a child restraint.
SWITCHING CAR SEATS TOO SOON
This happens when parents take their 1 year olds and turn them forward facing in the car seat. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that kids stay sitting backwards for at least two years. This is despite the child’s weight or height. The concern is that in the event of an accident which might only cause serious whiplash for an adult, it could actually have fatal consequences for a young child.
The same is also true for moving to the next stage of child restraints. Often, parents will eagerly anticipate the day they can move to a booster seat instead of a larger 5 point harness car seat. It’s viewed by some parents as “easier”, but according to safety experts, not safer.
EXPIRED OR RECALLED SAFETY SEATS
Your cheese has an expiration date and guess what? So does your car seat. You can find it on the bottom of the seat. As a general rule, it’s about 6 years. So, if you have gaps in ages of your children, you may not be able to pass them down all the way to your family’s caboose. Primary reason for expirations are the plastic and other parts of it can wear out and be compromised by extreme temperatures. You also need to replace seats which haven’t expired if you have been in a car crash. Your insurance company will usually take care of the cost.
With a few of these safety tips in mind, you should also consider visiting a fire department if you have questions about installation. Generally, they have trained staff on proper installation. The most important thing to remember is that even the most expensive child safety seat can’t protect your child if it’s not properly installed.