According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and 13, which makes car seat safety even more important.
Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in crashes by 71 to 82 percent for children, when compared with seat belt use alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, noting that in 2017, 35 percent of children 12 years of age or younger who died in a car accident were not buckled up.
“Car seat checks are important because statistics show that most car seats are installed incorrectly by caregivers,” said Amber Emerson, RN, injury prevention specialist with Trinity Health and Safe Kids Minot coordinator. “They need to be checked to make sure it is the right seat for the child, that it is properly installed, and that the car seat has not been recalled or expired.”
According to Emerson, parents should begin using car seats for their children “at birth” up until they are able to sit in the car and fit a seat belt correctly.
During these car seat checkups, the following things are examined:
• Is the car seat installed correctly?
Mayo Clinic recognizes this as one of the more common mistakes when it comes to car seat safety. It is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions and the section on car seats in the vehicle’s own manual, Mayo Clinic said on their website. Additionally, a car seat should remain rear-facing to the capacity of the car seat until the child is at least two, but can remain rear facing to the limits of the car seat, before being switched to a forward-facing position. “Riding rear facing is now recommended for as long as possible, until a child reaches highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer,” Mayo added.
• Has the car seat expired?
Emerson explained that the plastic in the car seat can become weak after multiple uses. “They are recommended to be replaced if they are expired,” Emerson said. “We don’t know how they would hold up in a crash.” Car seats are stamped with an expiration date, which can range from five to 10 years after the manufacture date. There are times when car seats can be recalled, due to either small recalls (such as if the buckle isn’t working or hard to release) or a total recall in which case the car seat is unsafe to use, which is why the registering is important, so that you are contacted in case of a recall, Emerson added.
• Does the car seat match the child?
A car seat must fit perfectly for a child and is matched to a child depending on their height, weight, and age, Emerson explained. If a child outgrows a car seat harness weight limits, parents can purchase a booster seat, which helps to make sure the seat belt fits correctly, she said. Children who are 4’9 or taller can abandon a car seat or booster seat and wear a seat belt “as long as it fits correctly over the hip and shoulder bones. If you are unsure if they are ready, we can check them at a car seat check,” Emerson added.