Transcript - Car Seat Safety

Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old. However, many times deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters, and seat belts. Parents and caregivers can help reduce the chance of child motor vehicle injuries and fatalities by learning the basics of car seat safety. The first and most important step in car safety is to use a child car seat.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of car seats can reduce fatal injury up to 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. The next step is to make sure you’re using the proper equipment for your child’s weight and size. For more information, we spoke to Kelly Klasek, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and coordinator at “Safety Stop” a free safety check program available to families.

“The first thing to inform parents is to use a car seat, use a proper car seat for the age of their child. Safest practices is what we talk about at Safety Stop, there are ways you can use a car seat according to manufacturers instructions that is not the safest practice, so safest practice would be to keep your child in a rear facing car seat appropriately until the maximum rear facing higher harness weight of that particular car seat. Usually about 35 pounds is what a convertible seat can tolerate, uh also check the length so check the specs on your seat, height and length of a child.”

Kelly told us that children should remain in rear facing car seats until about 2 years old. From 2-5 years old, they can use a front facing car seat. When the child reaches 4’9” in height or are at least 8 years old, they may be ready to transition to wearing a seat belt with a booster seat. But parents are advised to not let a child sit in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.

Now that you have the proper car seat for your child, the next step is making sure it’s properly installed. Even though 96% of parents believe their child safety seats are properly installed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately ¾ of all car seats are improperly installed.

“In the installation it shouldn’t move more than an inch side to side, you only really have especially in the rear facing, most rear facing seats don’t tether so you really only have control of where you install it which is at the bite of the seat which is where the seatbelt is. And it shouldn’t move more than an inch side to side. The top of the seat where the child’s head is will move, parents, its parents don’t understand that right away it is designed to move and its really the only, you don’t have control over how tight that is up there, you can get it as tight as you can with the seatbelt or the lap belt system in the car and its still going to move at the top because its designed to move.”

Once you have your car seat properly installed in the correct position, be careful not to misuse the features. The harness should be tightened at armpit level. Kelly also discouraged the use of wear puffy winter clothes or after-market products, such as a harness cushion, which can allow for movement during a crash.

“Those products are marketable, they’re marketable and a lot of them aren’t necessarily life and death but some are, so the manufacturer can not guarantee the safety of their seat if its used with a non regulated product, that’s the bottom line.”

If you have any questions or concerns on whether your car seat is properly installed, stop by your local police station or fire department. Many have certified child passenger safety technicians on hand that will inspect the seat, check it for a correct fit to the child and show parents how to install it properly.

We asked Phoenix Fire Department Paramedic Kelly Liebermann for a demonstration.

“Once the child is...once we have the car seat in, the rear anchor in, and we have the tether strap, all the fun stuff, the seatbelt's snug, the car seat’s in. We have to properly put the child in here. It's important that you keep these straps...now that they're forward facing, these straps, these shoulder straps need to be at their shoulder level or just above. Ok? Very important. This chest clip, again, has to be armpit level across their sternum. Loosen up the car seat every time. Or loosen up the straps every time we take it out and then retighten once the child is in there. Again, tighten to the point where this clip is across their chest, you can get a finger underneath it, but you should not be able to pinch these straps. Again, if you can pinch the straps you need to readjust and tighten some more. A lot of parents are concerned about, "Oh my child's not comfortable." My number one concern is safety not comfort. I want our child to live. They can be mad at me when they leave after their installation, but I'll tell you what, they're going to be safer. “

It is strongly advised to buy a new car seat. With used or second hand car seats, you may not know if the car seat has been involved in a crash, which can compromise the integrity of the plastic and overall safety of the seat. Also, you may not know if the car seat has been recalled. After you purchase your new car seat, complete the registration with the manufacturer in order to receive up-to-date recall and safety information.

I'm Ken Moll for Legal News Network -- your source for safety information.

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