Every parent knows how important it is to get babies and kids buckled into the car, in the right gear, for a road trip - or any time.
Think you've got it covered? Think again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that most child restraints are used incorrectly: 86 percent of rear-facing infant seats, 88 percent of forward-facing toddler seats, and 85 percent of safety belts.
Even for babies and toddlers, seat belts aren't getting clicked-in right! See details below...
Keep in mind: National Child Passenger Safety Week happens mid-September every year - find an Inspection Site near you, and technicians will make sure you're correctly using your child's safety seat.
Details on Common Problems Buckling Up
From a 2007 study, here are numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing what often goes wrong with kids and car-seats and safety belts:
Rear-facing Infant Seats
- Safety belt not tightly locking the seat in vehicle - 61.5%
- Harness straps not snugly restraining child - 65.3%
- Harness retainer clip not positioned at armpit level - 42.1%
- Safety belt not tightly locking the seat in the vehicle - 66.2%
- Harness straps not snugly restraining the child - 66.7%
- Top tether strap not used correctly (if supplied) - 46.2%
- Top tether strap not used correctly (if supplied) - 46%
- Lap and shoulder belt not correctly positioned - 19.9%
- Safety belt not routed correctly - 9.8%
- Shoulder belt not over center of shoulder 78.9%
- Child's legs do not bend over vehicle seat without child slouching - 75.1%
- Lap belt not over upper thighs - 70.6%
For Parents of Infants and Toddlers:
Parents of wee kids are very conscientious in using car safety seats, with usage well over 90%. But the message from the above data is: double-check that you're getting that seat belt clicked in right! See detailed photos and tips about Car Seat Safety at About's Pediatrics site.
For Parents of Kids 4 to 8:
Booster seats are often under-utilized. Once kids outgrow their car seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they need a booster seat to raise them up so that the car's seat belt fits right. The lap belt should lay across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should fit across the chest. Usually at age 8 (or when the child is 4’9” tall) the seat belt fits properly and the booster seat isn't needed any more.
Booster seats are required in most states, usually for kids up to eight years old. Yet a report in 2008 showed that use of booster seats among kids 4 to 7 was only 43 per cent. "As many as 45% of children 4 to 7 in the United States were not being properly protected (34% in seat belts, and 11% unrestrained)".*
For Parents of Older Kids:
Often kids have a tendency to flip away the shoulder strap when it crosses too high on their chest. In the data,above, about safety belts, the 78.9% figure for "seat belt not over center of shoulder" probably means a lot of kids are flipping their shoulder belt behind them.
But the message is clear: "Never allow your child to position the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back. In the event of a crash, seat belts worn like this will not be able to do their job and can even cause injury to your child!" (Kids Safety First.)
If a child is constantly wanting to flip away the shoulder belt, perhaps he or she should still be using a booster seat; with extra height, the shoulder strap fits more comfortably.
Bottom line: that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for kids age two to 14.**. Car seats, boosters, and seat-belts can save many kids' lives - but only when they're used properly.
* NHTSA "Traffic Safety Facts", Research Note, DOT HS 811 121, Mary 2009, Booster Seat Use in 2008.
**NHTSA "Traffic Safety Facts", DOT HS 810 803, 2006 Data.