Incorrectly Used Car Seats Add to Auto Accident Injuries and Deaths
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, by 2016 automobile accidents had become a leading cause of death among young children in the United States, now that deaths from “infectious disease or cancer” had declined as a result of “early diagnosis, vaccinations, antibiotics, and medical and surgical treatment.
The best way to protect children from injury in the event of an auto accident is to correctly place them in the proper car seat. But too often, parents or other responsible parties do one or more careless things:
- Incorrectly install the car seat.
- Use a car seat that is inappropriate for a child given his age, height, and weight.
- Improperly secure a harness or seat belt.
- Transfer an infant from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before he has reached the age of two or before he has reached the maximum height or weight limit recommended by the seat manufacturer.
- Transfer a child from a forward-facing car seat with a harness to a booster seat before he has outgrown the former.
- Transfer a child from a booster seat to a regular seat before he is large enough to use seat belts safely. He is large enough when the seat belt touches his shoulder and the backs of his knees are at the front of the seat.
- Allow a child under 13 to sit in the front seat.
Different car seats are designed for different stages of a child’s life, and there are guidelines for using them correctly. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 59 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly, putting children at greater risk of injury or death in the event of an accident.
Install Car Seats Properly
A car seat should be installed by connecting it to the lower anchors of the vehicle’s restraint anchorage system using the car seat’s lower anchor connectors or a seat belt. Although there is no best method of car seat installation, the NHTSA recommends using a tether strap with a forward-facing car seat whether the car seat is installed with a seat belt or lower anchor connectors.
However, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that “64 percent of caregivers who attended a Safe Kids Buckle Up checkup event with a child in a forward‐facing car seat were not using a tether on arrival.”
The top tether fastens the top of the car seat to the vehicle seat and prevents a forward-facing car seat from shooting forward during a crash or sudden stop. Installing a rear-facing car seat with a tether strap is unnecessary, but some car seat manufacturers recommend them.
Parents and other guardians may get their car seats checked by a certified technician to ensure that the seats are correctly installed and appropriate for their children. After several years, the extreme heat generated inside of vehicles tends to warp the seats, so that they are no longer safe to use. Seats in a vehicle during an accident should no longer be used either. When purchasing a car seat, it is best to buy a brand-new one.