Would Your Child’s Safety Seat Pass Inspection?
AAA Mid-Atlantic recognizes National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 17-23)
WILMINGTON, DE (September 18, 2017) – Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly, or are riding in the wrong car seats for their ages and sizes. Even worse, many other children ride while completely unbuckled. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three car seats are misused. During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 17-23, AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education urge parents to review Pennsylvania’s new car seat law, be sure children are in the proper seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes, and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.
“Car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for children under the age of 14,” said Ken Grant, 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. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.”
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety reports that 4 out of 5 child safety seats in Delaware are not installed correctly. The agency also states that in Delaware over the last three years, 64 children aged 13 and younger have been injured or killed in a car crash while unbuckled.
Delaware Child Car Seat Laws
All children must be properly restrained in a federally approved child safety seat appropriate for
the child's age, weight and height up to eight years of age or 65 pounds whichever comes first.
Additionally, children eight through 15 years old are required to be properly secured in a seatbelt. The fine for violating the law is $25.00. Children under 12 years old or 65 inches in height are still required to sit in the back seat if there are active airbags in the front passenger seating position.
“Parents have the best of intentions when using a car seat but they may be placing their child in harm’s way due to simple installation mistakes, without being aware of it,” notes Grant. “Anyone using a child safety seat in their vehicle should educate themselves, even if they’ve been using one for years, to make sure it’s installed correctly.”
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. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). And, using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent.
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 to ensure it’s done properly.
Using restraints for older children too soon. Whether it’s turning an infant forward-facing or progressing into an adult seat belt, 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, never buy 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.
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety provides free child seat checks in select locations across the state. Visit the OHS site to find a fitting station close to you.