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Study Highlights How Often Child Seats Are Not Properly Installed or Used

A new study warns that more than half of children in the U.S. are not properly fastened into their car seats, or are being placed in inappropriately sized car seats that could pose injury and ejection hazards in the event of a crash or hard braking event.  

A new car seat safety study released by the consumer group What Car? this week found that most children are improperly fastened into car seats, increasing the risk of serious injury in the event of a crash.

Researchers examined 3,000 children placed in car seats from 2016 through 2017 by the groups researchers who examined 3,000 children placed in car seats. The survey found 59 percent of the children in care seats were incorrectly fastened, or were placed in car seats of the incorrect size.

Researchers also found 36 percent of the car seats examined were not properly fastened to the seats, and another 33 percent of those car seats with children in them were not suitable for the size of the child. In addition, three percent of the children legally required to be placed in a car seat, were not buckled in at all.

The study’s findings indicate a variety of problems can compatibility issues between the car seat and the car, and between the car seat and the child.

However, the most common errors for each issue included incorrectly routed seatbelts (41%) and improperly positioned car head restraints affecting the seat (30%).

The most causes of incompatability between the car seat and the child included  incorrect harness tensions (49%), incorrect harness positioning (22%), incorrectly positioned child seat head restraints (16%), incorrect seat for the child (5%), twisted harnesses (4%), children clothing affecting the harness (3%) and the child safety seat facing the wrong direction (1%).

Consumer editor for What Car?, Claire Evans, said the mistakes witnessed in the study are all avoidable and simple. She noted that proper education about car seat use could improve child safety significantly. Evans recommended that anyone transporting children in a car seat should seek expert fitting advice and try the car seat in their vehicle before placing the child in the vehicle and driving for the first time. For a list of recommendations, What Car? has provided a “Top 10 child car seat checks” for parents and caregivers to follow when purchasing a car seat.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motor vehicle crash fatalities involving children under 12 years of age and younger is the leading cause of death for that age range, citing more than 9,000 deaths recorded from 2002 through 2011.

The CDC recommends that children be placed in rearward facing car seats from birth to age two, forward facing car seats from age two to at least five years of age, use a booster seat from age five and up until the seat belt fits properly, and once the seat belt fits properly the booster seat can be removed.

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