I might have raised four sons (relatively) safely, but there was one thing that frequently alluded me as a mother: car seats. How to install them, how to choose one that was right for my child's height and weight, how to make sure my kids were safe in them, and rather less importantly, how to get crumbs out of the little nooks in the seats. Apparently I'm not the only one, because a recent study suggests that two-thirds of kids aren't safe in car seats.
According to the What Car? study, approximately 59 percent of children are traveling around in car seats unsafely. Now, the study of 3,000 children's car seats was done in the United Kingdom, but the information holds true on this side of the Atlantic Ocean as well. The reality is, parents are still struggling with all of the car seat safety rules, and a vast number of children are still in car seats that fit them incorrectly and are not right for them, according to The Independent. There was also an issue with parents (much like myself) simply not knowing how to strap their children into their car seats. Simple things like straps being too loose, or harnesses not in the right position, can make all the difference in the world.
These 3,000 cars were pulled over to the side of the road for surprise checks and inspected, with and without children in them. During the inspection, it was discovered that 36 percent of the car seats were not fitted properly to the vehicle, and a further 33 percent were found unsuitable for the children they carried. As What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans noted:
Ensuring a child is seated safely is vital for all parents but often many don’t realise the mistakes they are making. Taking simple steps such as checking the seatbelt is fitted tightly enough around the seat and making sure the seat is the right size for the child can go a long way to improving children’s safety.
Of course, when in doubt it's probably a good idea to get an official car seat expert on the job, as Evans told The Independent:
We recommend anyone who transports children in car seats to seek expert fitting advice and ensure they try the seat in their car, ideally with their child in it, before they buy it.
Car seat safety is vitally important to the well-being of small children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper car seat use reduces the risk of death to infants under 1 when in a serious car accident by 71 percent. As for children between the ages of 1 and 4, if they are correctly strapped in a car seat that fits them during a collision their risk of death is decreased by 54 percent.
There are pretty specific car seat guidelines available through the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that should help parents understand whether or not their child should be in a rear-facing car seat (including convertible car seats that can switch positions), forward-facing car seats, or booster seats for older children. The AAP also gives a clearly written set of rules to help guide parents through the installation of these car seats, and how to properly secure children. If you're still unsure, it might be a good idea to find a certified child passenger safety technician in your area, or go to a clinic that offers a car seat inspection.
Sure, it might be a little inconvenient. But if seeking a professional helps give you a little peace of mind about your child's safety, it's totally worth it.