Did you know that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for children between one and 12 years old? Child Passenger Safety Week, a time to bring awareness to the importance of having children properly buckled into car seats and booster seats, runs from September 16 to September 22.
How aware are you?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. The best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way.”
Parents have a laundry list a mile long of things to worry about when it comes to their kids, and we know this is yet another, but given how much time we spend in the car and how simple it is to ensure we’re using our child’s booster or car seat correctly, we don’t want to allow this to get lost in the mix.
So, do you have booster or car seats properly installed in your vehicle? Are you using them the right way?
Safety in theory vs. safety in reality
While you might think the answer to that question is “Yes, of course!” — because as parents, we do our best to keep our kids safe — you might be wrong. A survey from the NHTSA and Safe Kids Worldwide found that 90 percent of the parents and caregivers who responded said that they were either “confident” or “very confident” that they installed their children’s car seats or booster seats correctly. However, upon inspection, over half of them were “severely misusing” the booster and car seats.
But really, how hard is it?
On September 8, I attended the Red CARpet Safety Event hosted by celeb mom Ali Landry and sponsored by Britax. Safe Kids was there to help parents ensure that their car and booster seats were installed properly.
I’ll admit that I’ve never had an easy time installing car seats. In fact, I’ve always had such a hard time that I just won’t do it. I don’t trust that I’ve installed the seats properly. And at the Red CARpet Safety Event, my concerns were verified. A representative from Safe Kids, who installed two Britax Frontier 85 SICT booster seats in my SUV with the help of another Safe Kids professional, told me that it was a “two-woman job” to get them in because it was impossible to do so properly on her own.
The bottom line: it’s OK to ask for help! Car seat safety is too important and this is one of those rare parenting situations in which your best just isn’t good enough if it’s not perfect.
Safe Kids cares
I had the opportunity to ask Kate Carr, President and CEO of Safe Kids, a few questions about car seat safety. Kate has a passion for keeping children safe in vehicles. “Despite working for years in global health care organizations, I was surprised to learn preventable injuries are the number one killer of kids in the U.S.,” she says. Kate points out that when child seats are used correctly, they can reduce the risk of death from a car accident by 71 percent.
“As a mom of three, I have made most of the common mistakes we identified,” she shares candidly. “With the information we provide, other parents can use our tips or contact a certified technician to get it right. How cool is that?”
Safe Kids has a five-point checklist for you to review on your own to help you determine whether you’ve installed a car or booster seat properly.
- The right seat: Is the seat you’re using correct for your child’s age, weight and height? Is it expired?
- The right place: If your child is under 13, is he in the back seat, the only safe place for children that age?
- The right direction: If your child is 2 or younger, is she rear facing? This is the safest direction for kids until they reach the max height or weight for their seat.
- The inch test: Shake the car seat after it’s installed. Does it move less than an inch? If it moves more, it’s not installed properly.
- The pinch test: Once your child is buckled in the car seat, pinch the strap at shoulder level. If there’s no excess webbing, you’re set.
Ask for help
When it comes to car seat safety, there’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s smart to do so. “We make sure we get our kids to the doctor every year for an annual checkup. It’s important because kids keep growing and changing!” Kate says. “But those growth spurts impact the car seat, too. Parents need to give their car seat a regular checkup.”
Go to safekids.org to find a car seat inspection event in your community. “At safekids.org, parents can find a list of events across the country,” she shares.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s Child Passenger Safety Week, so use this reminder to make sure you’re using your child’s car seat or booster seat correctly — this week and every week!