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Do you use child safety seats for your children? If so, are you securing your children properly inside them? Are the seats themselves fitted correctly to your vehicle?

According to a recent report from Child Seat Safety, most parents are not getting it right when it comes to fastening children into those seats. Unfortunately, they may not be aware of the mistakes, which can increase the risk of serious injury in the event of a crash.

Study Finds Many Children Not Properly Restrained in Their Car Seats

Child Seat Safety conducted 30 seat-checking events between 2016 and 2017 to see how children were fastened into their safety seats. They randomly pulled the vehicles over and inspected the seats, with and without the children in them. In all, they checked on 3,000 seats. Results revealed:

  • over 36 percent of them were not fitted to the car correctly,
  • 33 percent of those that had children in them weren’t suitable for their occupants,
  • 3 percent of children who legally needed to be in a child seat were completely unrestrained,
  • and overall, 59 percent or two-thirds of children were sitting in car seats that had been incorrectly fitted or were inappropriate for them.

They also found that how the seats were designed affected the results. In other words:

  • In seats with a large impact shield that sits across the child’s body, more than 90 percent were correctly restrained, but in those with five-point harnesses, only 61 percent were properly restrained.
  • In seats with Isofix mountings that click into points on the car’s chassis were more often correctly installed than those secured with seatbelts—79 percent compared to 52 percent, respectively.

Child Safety Seats Save Lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a similar report issued back in 2016. In it, they noted that motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for children age four, and the second leading cause of death for children age 3. In 2013, crashes were noted to be the second leading cause of death for every age 5 through 14. Analysis of the figures revealed an average of three children 14 and younger killed every day in motor vehicle crashes.

The NHTSA went on to state that child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants less than one-year-old, and by 54 percent for toddlers age one to four in passenger cars. The rates are similar in light trucks—58 percent in infants and 59 percent in toddlers.

Common Child Seat Fitting and Securing Mistakes

Child Seat Safety notes that the most common mistakes when it comes to child safety seats are moving a child up to a larger seat too soon, and failing to use a seat at all. After that, it’s incorrectly fitting the harnesses and seatbelts.

In their study above, they found that when it comes to fitting the seat in the car, the majority of the problems came from an improperly routed seat belt, and from a car head restraint affecting the seat. When looking at how the seat worked for the child, the majority of the problems came from incorrect tension of the harness, and incorrect position of the harness.

To have your child car seat inspected for free in the Pittsburgh area, schedule an appointment with one of the local services listed at PA TECHS.

Meanwhile, here are some tips for making sure your seat is installed and used correctly:

  • Keep kids rear-facing as long as possible—the recommendation used to be until the age of one, but new legislation in many states has now moved that up to at least age two, or up until the top height and weight limits of the seat.
  • Always connect the top tether, which reduces how far forward the child will move in a crash.
  • Keep kids under 4 foot 9 in a booster seat.

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