WASHINGTON – A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey shows that parents are making five significant mistakes when using and installing child safety seats, including booster seats. The study also found that one in five parents do not read any instructions when installing seats. According to the survey, the five most significant and commonly observed mistakes made by parents and caregivers are:
- Using the wrong harness slot: The harness straps used to hold the child in the car seat are positioned either too low or too high.
- Positioning the harness chest clip incorrectly: The chest clip is placed over the abdomen, instead of the chest, or it's not used at all.
- Failing to secure the car seat properly: The restraint system is too loose after installation. It shouldn't move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
- Leaving the harness loose: There should be no slack between the child and the harness strap. In many cases, the researchers saw more than 2 inches of slack.
- Positioning the seat belt wrong: The lap belt should not rest over the stomach, and the shoulder belt should not rest on the child's neck or face.
The survey also revealed that 20 percent of all drivers of child passengers did not read any instructions on how to properly install their child restraints, yet 90 percent felt "confident" or "very confident" that their car seats and booster seats were installed correctly.
Need help installing your child safety seat? The Glenview and Northfield Police Departments are both official Child Safety Seat Inspection Stations, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To find other inspection stations near you, use NHTSA's station locator.
"Child safety seats save hundreds of young lives every year, but proper use is vital," said David Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator. "That's why we're urging everyone to make sure their kids are properly protected on every trip, every time." To help parents ensure their child seats are installed and used correctly, NHTSA and Safe Kids USA are encouraging everyone to conduct a 15-minute, at-home checkup using the following the Safe Kids downloadable checklist:
- Right Seat. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it's appropriate for your child's age, weight and height.
- Right Place. Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13. Doing this, along with correctly using the appropriate child restraints, greatly reduces the risk of injury.
- Right Direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
- Inch Test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than 1 inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than 1 inch.
- Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child's shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you're good to go.
In addition to the checklist, parents are encouraged to read the vehicle and car seat instruction manuals.