Car seats are a vital component in keeping children safe. Small children cannot safely wear seat belts and need the protection afforded by car seats and their restraints. Unfortunately, a surprising percentage of car seats are not being used effectively. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, 59 percent of these seats are installed improperly. As a result, these seats are either ineffective or less effective than they should be at preventing injury in the event of a car accident.

Why the confusion?

If you’ve never installed a car seat, you might be wondering how so many could come to be installed incorrectly. If you have done it, you likely remember the unhelpful diagrams, contradictory instructions and the lack of compatible equipment on your vehicle. It many vehicles, it is easy to find some method of securing the seat to the car, but it is not clear which method is correct for the seat, and the child, in question.

Controlling factors

The first challenge is finding an acceptable car seat for your child. Car seats and booster seats are targeted for children based on age, height and weight. The manufacturers set the specifications for their seats, so there is no standard progression. The NHTSA does provide a resource to help parents find the right car seat.

Once you have the seat, you face the challenge of positioning and installing it. Seats can be rear facing or forward facing. Some cars allow seats to be positioned in the middle of the back seat. Others are only equipped for the sides. Local police departments and fire stations sometimes hold events designed to help parents with proper installation. You can also check with the AAA or see if your car seat’s manufacturer offers any resources.

Don’t be so sure

The NHTSA data makes it clear that the majority of people have failed in their attempt to properly install a car seat for their children. The failure really belongs to auto makers and seat manufacturers, but the point remains that most seats are not providing the safety they should. Consumers are right to worry about whether they have successfully installed their seat. If you get the chance to have an expert inspect your child’s car seat, you should take it.

Source: Daily Herald, “Is your kid’s car seat ready for a crash Most aren’t,” by Marni Pyke, 25 September 2017