Don't take the kids for a ride without making a car seat safety check your first move
If you have young children, a car seat is one of the most important safety features in your vehicle. But a car seat only works the way it should if it's installed correctly. That's why a car seat safety check is so vitally important.
It certainly seems easy enough to install a car seat. However, a study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that the estimated "overall misuse" of car seats is 46%. Of those, an "incorrect amount of recline" in rear-facing seats and "loose installation" in forward-facing seats were the two most common problems.
The good news is that in the event of an accident, for a child under the age of two, a properly installed rear-facing car seat can reduce their chance of death or serious injury by up to 75%. And in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children ride in rear-facing seats at least until they are two years old.
To find out if your seat is installed correctly, a car seat safety check is your first step.
Use the correct seat
Before you can conduct a car seat safety check, you have to have the right seat. For infants and children under 2, that's a rear-facing seat. Ideally, children should remain rear-facing until they reach the height and weight limits of your car seat. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia points out that a rear-facing seat help protect a child's head, neck, and spine in case of an accident.
Use your LATCH system
You can find a LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) in most cars made after 2002. LATCH uses built-in straps and hooks to firmly secure a car seat. If your car is equipped with LATCH, use it only as indicated in your car's manual.
In the absence of LATCH, you can also use your seatbelts. Follow the car seat manufacturer's instructions for the most secure placement. Whether you use a seatbelt or LATCH, the car seat needs to be nearly immobile. According to the AAP, "If you can move the seat at the belt path more than an inch side to side or front to back, it's not tight enough."
Use the seat correctly
Even when the seat itself is properly secured, it's still important to make sure you are using it the right way. That means taking the time to secure the harnesses correctly and making sure your child is properly dressed. The AAP also points out that bulky clothing, such as winter jackets or extra blankets, can increase the risk of injury to your child because they limit the effectiveness of the seat straps. They recommend using blankets or coats over the harness straps.
Get a professional safety check
Many localities offer a car seat safety check through the local fire or police department. Children's hospitals and community organizations may also offer safety checks. The NHTSA has a searchable database of certified installation technicians. It's never a bad idea to have someone else take a look at your car seat installation.
A car seat safety check is important, but the goal is to never put it to the test. That's why defensive driving is an equally important part of car seat safety. That means no texting or taking a quick phone call.
Additional ways to help keep your child safe in a car seat
Ideally, avoid using an old seat. A car seat that has been involved in an accident is at risk for diminished performance. Additionally, parts begin to wear out over time, leaving the seat less safe than it originally was. If you do use an older seat, check for recalls. The NHTSA has an updated list of safety seat recalls going back 10 years.
If you are in an accident, replace your car seat as soon as possible.
If you can, place your child in the center of the back seat. This might not be an option depending on the type of vehicle you have or the number of back seat passengers, but it is the safest place in the car under most circumstances.
Especially when you have a child to move from place to place, you need your car in good condition. Count on Pekin Insurance to take care of your car insurance needs so you can feel secure on the road. Contact your Pekin Insurance agent today for more information.