AAA: Would your child’s safety seat pass inspection? Nearly half don’t
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. An estimated 46% of car seats and booster seats (59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats) are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. Even worse, some children ride while completely unbuckled.
During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 20-26, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges parents to review Virginia’s car seat law, be sure children are in the proper child seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes, and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.
“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children,” said Martha Meade, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe.”
Child Passenger Safety Statistics
- Every 32 seconds in 2018, one child under the age of 13 riding in a passenger vehicle was involved in a crash.
- From 2014 to 2018, there were 3,315 children under 13 killed while riding in passenger vehicles.
- On average, nearly two children under 13 were killed every day in 2018 while riding in cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans.
- In 2018, approximately one-third (33%) of children under 13 killed in passenger vehicles were not restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.
Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The American Academy of Pediatrics car seat recommendations advises parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Previously, the AAP recommended rear-facing car seats up until the age of two.
According to Virginia’s DMV, 5,337 children under the age of 8 were involved in vehicle crashes between 2016 and 2019. Forty-six of those children died from their injuries. Child seats save lives. According to the CDC, buckling a child into an age and size appropriate car seat reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71-82% when compared with seat belt use alone.
As of July first of last year, Virginia law requires children to remain rear-facing until the age of 2 or until they reach the minimum requirement for a forward facing child safety seat. Violation of the law is punishable by a $50 fine for a first offense. Virginia requires all children up to 8 years-old to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat. Children between 8 and 18 must belted in correctly using a vehicle safety belt.
“Virginia’s child safety seat law, that was suggested and supported by AAA, eliminated the confusion and uncertainty over when is the right time to switch a child to be forward facing” said Meade “Keeping them rear facing for as long as possible gives little ones the best chance of surviving a serious crash.”
Seven Common Car Seat Mistakes
- Not using a safety seat. Whether an infant, toddler or booster seat-age child, parents should always use the appropriate child restraint system every time their children are in a vehicle.
- Not reading safety seat instructions.Three out of four child safety seats are installed incorrectly according to NHTSA. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it’s important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing a seat.
- Using restraints for older children too soon.Parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) car seat recommendations advises parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.
- Using restraints for older children too soon.Parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers not be turned to face forward until they are at least age two and the maximum weight for the seat. Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.
- Installing safety seats too loosely. When a child safety seat is properly installed, it should not move more than one inch in any direction. Parents should use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat—but not both, unless approved by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. If using a seat belt, make sure it is locked to hold the seat snugly in place.
- Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child’s body upright and against the seat. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
- Gadgetry:If it didn’t come with the seat (or wasn’t purchased from the manufacturer to use with the seat), it wasn’t crash-tested with the seat. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, mirrors and toys.
- Not replacing seats after a crash or using one without knowing its history: Check your manual to see if the seat should be replaced even after a minor fender-bender and even if no child was in the seat at the time. Also, neverbuy a used car seat, and never accept a free used one unless you’re sure that it’s never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, there may be damages that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy a cheap, new seat than a high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.
Remember to register your car seat or booster seat with the seat manufacturer so you can be notified in the event of a recall. Parents and caregivers can view more information on car seat safety and locate a certified technician at nhtsa.gov/carseat. To find a Safety Seat Check Events or a Safety Seat Check Station near you, check out this list from the Virginia Department of Health.