Three out of 4 child safety seats are not properly installed. Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, Manager of Traffic Safety for AAA and an expert on child safety seats, discusses some of the common mistakes and what you can do to make sure your child’s seat is properly installed.
Why Child Safety Seats?
Car and truck seat belts are designed for adults. For the best protection, the lap belt should be low and snug across the hips and the shoulder portion must be snug across the chest, away from the neck and face. For many adults, this is not a problem. However, for young children, adult seat belts never fit properly. With an incorrect fit, a child is at serious risk. A child safety seat or booster seat remedy this problem.
Child safety seats are now an accepted feature when a child is in a car. Organizations across the globe call for their use. The U.N. Decade of Action for Road Safety includes child safety seats as an important element in reducing the number of global road fatalities. Parents everywhere are purchasing them and understand the need to have them in the car.
The issue now is that many child seats are not properly installed. A few common mistakes include:
- Using the lower anchors and the car’s seat belts in combination to secure the child safety seat.
- Not using a tether when indicated by the manual.
- Placing a child safety seat in the center of the back seat using the lower anchors from the two outside seats.
- Not considering the combined weight of the child and seat when using the anchor system.
Parents are obviously trying to install the seats properly, but mistakes are being made. Some times it is an over abundance of caution creating an issue. For example, using the lower anchors and the seat belt in combination to secure a child car seat would make you think that it is increasing the safety potential. However, there is no research that it is improves a child’s safety and there are concerns it could create problems. Seat belts and the lower anchor system are designed to work independently.
In this episode, Ms. Huebner-Davidson also provides guidance on the type of child car seat that should be used and when to change to a new car seat. Ultimately, as she indicates, one should always first read the Child Safety Seat Instruction Manual and then the vehicle manual.
Three tips for achieving a successful installation include:
- Read the Child Safety Seat User Manual
- Read your vehicle manual
- Get the seat checked at a Car Seat Check Site
Getting an inspection at the car seat check site allows an expert to determine if the seat is properly installed. If it isn’t, the technician will show you what is incorrect and how to fix it so when you are on your own, you’ll have the knowledge and ability to install it correctly. Click here to find the closest car seat check site to you.
Once your child is old enough and according to the user manual for the child safety seat, the next step is to move to a booster seat. This will help the adult seat belt to properly fit your child. Finally, when your child grows old enough to leave the booster seat behind, remember, they still need to wear a seat belt and ride in the back seat.
As your child grows, providing her or him as much protection as possible from injuries in a car crash requires three steps:
- Purchase the correct child safety seat
- Properly install it
- Use it
You have taken the time to purchase the seat and to install it – make sure to do that last step, and use it. You never know about the driving skills of the person next to you, or if they may be texting while driving or driving impaired. Remember, once you have installed the seat, it should be used Every Ride, Every Time. Using these three steps can help ensure your child has the life he or she was meant to have.
- AAA – Child Safety
- AAA – Safe Seats 4 Kids
- NHTSA – Car Seat Recommendations for Children
- Car Seat Check
- AAA – Latch System Press Release
- AAA – Fact Sheet – New Research on Lower Anchors and Tethers
- NHTSA – The Simple Facts about LATCH
- NHTSA – Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children
- Highway to Safety Podcast – Interview of Kate Carr, CEO Safe Kids Worldwide on Child Safety Car Seats
A Conversation with Monika Samtani
Monika Samtani is an award-winning journalist, a business entrepreneur, and a mother of three. As a media professional for over 20 years, currently the traffic anchor on Washington, DC’s WUSA 9’s Morning News, and the host for a morning news transportation segment called the Extra Mile, Monika provides a unique perspective on traffic safety. She understands the importance for all of us to “just drive.”
Going the Extra Mile
While reporting traffic crashes from around the Washington D.C. metro area, Monika sees the significant impact poor choices can have on driving. Speaking with me between her traffic reports, Monika provides a glimpse into the world of reporting traffic crashes, and why she says, “Just drive.”
During her Extra Mile segment, Monika interviews traffic safety professionals on what can be done to be safer. Her interviews include speaking with Tim Hollister, Author and National Teen Driver Safety Advocate, and Kate Carr, CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. A side-benefit of all that she has learned at work allows her to share it with her family, including her teenage son who is just learning to drive. Accused by her son of ‘knowing too much,’ Monika discusses what we all need to do to be safe drivers.
In her ‘free time,’ Monika is the President of Ms. Media, producing videos and providing public speaking training, and the founder of the Launch Network, a premiere networking organization connecting entrepreneurs and professional women in the U.S.
A New Direction
Also during this episode, as the Traffic Safety Guy, I talk about the New Year and call on all of us to take a new direction for safety. For many, the New Year is a time of resolutions and individual efforts for self-improvement. Self–improvement should not be limited to our health. Did you know that:
- A 5% cut in average speed can result in 30% reduction in the number of fatal crashes.
- Not drinking and driving significantly reduces the risk of a traffic crash.
- Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can result in a 40% reduction to risk of death and 70% reduction of a serious injury.
- Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 50% for the front seat occupants and up to 75% for the rear seat passengers.
- Child restraints reduce the likelihood of a fatal crash 70% for infants and 54%-80% for young children.
What could be more about self-improvement than taking action to be a safer driver?
Many countries have strong national laws covering these specific issues, but the vast majority of countries acknowledge that more has to be done to enforce them. For a societal change, it takes awareness, understanding AND enforcement. Yet knowledge IS power, and each of us can make a difference; a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.
A New Year’s Resolution for Safety
During this New Year, resolve to take a new direction in your life. Take this time to understand the importance of your actions. Recognize that each of us plays a role in saving lives. Use your expanding awareness and implement new behaviors to be a safer driver.
In this time of reflection of years past and contemplation of dreams to come, I wish you a very safe and joyous journey wherever life’s road takes you.
Happy New Year!
- Highway to Safety Podcast, Episode 5 – Kate Carr
- Highway to Safety Podcast, Episode 6 – Tim Hollister
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – NHTSA Administrator Strickland
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – MADD President Jan Withers
A Conversation with Ernesto Arguello
Ernesto Arguello is an international entrepreneur focused on creating new ventures that offer opportunities for others, which includes traveling everywhere to save lives with a “simple” message: Snap-2-Live.
Recognizing that traffic crashes are the number one killer of youth around the globe, Ernesto looked for a way to make a difference and stop the carnage. One of the most effective and simplest ways he found is for everyone to buckle their seat belt when in a car. However, being a proponent of encouraging youth to remember to fasten their seat belts can be challenging. His solution? Snap-2-Live.
Safety Belts and Snap-2-Live
Snap-2-Live is a belt worn for everyday activities that looks like a seat belt from a car. Made of the same type of material but with bright colors, it stands out, and family and friends see it and ask what it represents. By wearing the belt, it is Ernesto’s expectation that it will spark a discussion on the importance of wearing a seat belt, and create an easy reminder to use it in the car.
Ernesto has a deep belief in the importance of education. The son of refugees, he learned that education is something we can take with us anywhere we go—no matter what other possessions we do or do not have. That belief has driven his effort to educate everyone about seat belts. The outside of the packaging for a Snap-2-Live belt asks for a pledge to “join the fight against road crashes” by:
- Wearing a seat belt
- Not drinking and driving
- Not texting while driving, and
- Respecting traffic signals
While raising awareness of road safety issues, Ernesto is also elevating communities in Latin America. Using education as a base, he is creating and building “sustainable communities that offer housing, infrastructure, education, health, recreation and entrepreneurial programs,” called Education Model Towns.
The Decade of Action for Road Safety
Also in this episode, David Wallace, the Traffic Safety Guy, discusses global traffic safety issues and why the U.N. has declared 2011-2020 to be the Decade of Action for Road Safety. From the research we know:
- Road traffic crashes take the lives of nearly 1.3 million people every year, with almost half being pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
- Between 20-50 million people are injured in crashes.
- Road traffic injuries have become the leading cause of death for people 15–29 years of age
Failing to wear seat belts is one of the five critical risk factors identified by the United Nations in its effort to increase road safety. The other four are: speed, drink-driving, failing to wear helmets, and not using child restraints. In other words, when worn, seat belts can lessen the impact of the other risk factors. For example, someone impaired from drink-driving but wearing a seat belt is more likely to survive a crash than someone who isn’t wearing one.
Wearing a seat belt is a critical road safety component. Snap-2-Live challenges everyone to make a fashion statement: always “click” the two ends together when in a car and save lives.
How have seat belts made a difference in your life?
- Decade of Action for Road Safety
- Education Model Towns
- FIA Foundation
- Inter-American Development Bank
- Launch Network
- The Extra Mile
- The Extra Mile Episode with Ernesto Arguello
- Attitudes Towards Seat Belt Use
- Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013
- Seat-belts: The Facts Infograph