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Child Passenger Safety Week is coming to a close today, but the safety of our children passengers is something that we need to keep in mind every single day. And one area that caught NHTSA’s attention in particular this year was he proper use of car seats and booster seats. Appropriate seating is one of the most important ways we can keep our children safe in the car, and making mistakes—even small ones—in installing or using the seat can undermine even the best child seats.

That’s why parents of young children should pay attention to the results of a recent NHTSA survey on how parents use child seats. That survey showed a significant number of caregivers (20%) do not read any instructions when installing child car seats. So it may not be surprising that many parents are also making 5 significant mistakes when using these seats:

  • Using the wrong harness slots, which means that the harness straps used to hold the child in the car seat were either too high or too low.
  • Harness chest clip positioned over the abdomen rather than the chest, or not used at all.
  • Loose car seat installation, where the restraint system moved more than two inches side-to-side or front-to-back. Anything more than one inch is too much.
  • Loose harness, where there was more than two inches of slack between the child and the harness strap. There should be no slack.
  • Seat belt placement was wrong, where the lap belt was resting over the stomach or the shoulder belt was on the child’s neck or face.

Even if you feel confident that you haven’t made these common mistakes, your child’s safety is worth a fifteen minute inspection of the car seat installation and use. That same NHTSA survey indicated that even though 1 in 5 parents never read installation or use instructions, 90% of them still felt confident or very confident in how they were using those seats. Those numbers simply aren’t good enough when just a few minutes of attention could mean the difference between doing it all wrong and doing it all right. Safe Kids has an easy checklist available to help you make sure your child seats are doing their job. We encourage you to take a look at this today and keep it in mind everyday when you put your children in the car.

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