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Check your car seat: You might be putting your child at risk

AAA says more than half of car seats wind up improperly installed, and parents tend never to double-check the installation once children grow past the infant stage. Photo: Canva
  • 52% of every car seat brought for a check at inspection points was not installed properly 
  • Car seat check visits for older children, such as those over age 7, make up fewer than 3% of all inspections
  • Roughly 183,000 children received injuries in car crashes in 2018, or about 500 per day, according to highway safety officials

You may not be aware of a big risk that faces your kids every day. It’s in your minivan.

New data shows many families just don’t have their car seats installed correctly. Maybe they got help with the baby carrier and put it in rear facing. But then the child moves to a forward facing seat and then a booster. And the car seat check never happens again.

AAA Utah spokesman Aldo Vazquez says only one in five parents seeks out expert help.

“Each vehicle is set up differently and each car seat is set up differently. So while your car seat might come with universal instruction, it still has to be able to fit your vehicle,” he said.

Don’t neglect the re-check of the car seat later on

Vazquez says 52% of car seats brought to inspection points were installed improperly. And they mostly only see the rear-facing seats, meaning parents fail to re-check a car seat as their child grows.

“Car seat inspections among older child occupants, like ages 7 and up, they cover less than 3% of all the car seats that are bought in for inspection. And about 47% of the seats for older child occupants are not properly installed,” he said.

“For years we’ve known that car crashes are the lead safety issue facing our children. Just in 2018, approximately 183,000 children were injured in car crashes. That comes out to more than 500 injuries per day,” he said.

Most common mistakes parents make

The three most common mistakes parents made for car seat installation included installing the car seat too loosely, failing to “tether” a forward-facing car seat using the belt or the lower anchors in the car, and leaving the child’s harness straps too loose when buckling her in. 

The National Digital Car Seat Check Form (NDCF) database revealed some other common mistakes include transitioning children from rear to forward-facing too soon, affecting roughly a quarter of all children. Additionally, the data showed more than 90% of children under age 10 using the lap-and-shoulder seat belt when they should still use a car seat or booster. 

AAA and other agencies offer a free check of car seat installation for parents. You can find help through AAA.com/carseats, or Google a free inspection point near you.

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