A properly installed car seat helps keep your child safe in the event of an auto accident.
Every 32 seconds, a child under the age of 13 is involved in an auto accident. All states now require children to be restrained while riding in a vehicle. But not all adults responsible for restraining their young passengers do so correctly.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, placing a child in a car seat or booster seat can reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 54% to 71% if an automobile crashes. But the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver reports that up to 90 percent of child restraint car and booster seats are used improperly.
Mistakes to avoid include:
- Buying the wrong car seat. Safety seats are built with a child’s weight and age in mind. Make sure you purchase the right seat for your child and know when to replace it as he grows older.
- Placing the car seat so that it faces the wrong way. Infants and young children up to a certain age should be in a rear-facing car seat. Older children may use a forward-facing seat. Know what type of child safety seat you need.
- Setting the car seat at the wrong angle. A child safety seat needs to sit on an angle that reclines 30 to 45 degrees. An infant’s head is heavy, and a baby can’t hold it up. So to ensure that he can breathe without interruption, the seat needs to be placed at an angle.
- Failing to thoroughly read instructions before placing the seat in the car — including instructions on how to properly position safety straps.
Never use a safety seat that was inside a vehicle at the time of a crash, even if your child was not in the seat at the time. The force of the crash may well have weakened or damaged the seat. By using it again, you may be subjecting your child to unnecessary risk.
More information about car seats is easy to obtain if you have any questions about properly using them.
Getting a Safety Check of Your Safety Seat
In 1985, the federal government passed a law requiring children to be restrained while riding in a car. At first, if you were a parent, you were pretty much at the mercy of detailed and perhaps imperfectly clear instructions on how to install a car seat. Today, though, you can get free help to make sure you have installed it correctly and are using the right seat to secure your child.
Once a year, a week is devoted to child passenger safety awareness; this year, it’s September 20 to 26. The point is to remind parents and others who travel with children to make sure that the safety seats children use are safe. In furtherance of this end, the CDOT has established inspection stations at which you can get a car seat checked out.
Parents uncomfortable being near others because of the pandemic can also arrange a virtual seat check.
Local Child Restraint Laws
Every state requires that children be restrained while riding in a car. Colorado law requires that children up to 7 years old be in a car seat or booster seat. Children 8 to 15 years old may wear a seatbelt. There are fines for violating the laws. A more important cost is the needlessly greater risk if your child is not properly restrained and your car happens to be involved in an accident.