It may not seem like there’s a large margin for error when it comes to properly installing a car seat, yet locally, there is an 80 percent misuse rate with car seats– that’s right, four out of five kids are not as safe as they should be, according to Gina Veres, supervisor, Injury Prevention & Community Outreach, Promedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Greater Toledo. With odds like these, every parent should have their child’s car seat installed or inspected, a service provided at no charge by local police departments, hospitals, and fire stations.
“Parents and caregivers are encouraged to have their car seats checked by a certified child passenger safety technician to ensure proper use. CPS technicians have attended standardized training and are able to identify misuse and educate on proper installation and use,” according to Veres.
It’s the Law: Rear-Facing Seats
Veres says kids should ride rear-facing until at least 2 years old, or they have reached the weight limits of their convertible car seat (usually around 40 lbs.) Why? “Rear-facing is five times safer. The back of a rear-facing car seat supports a baby or toddler’s large head and weak neck. This lowers the chance of a serious head or neck injury in a crash. Ohio’s child restraint law indicates that children need to ride in a car seat that is appropriate for their age and size and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Children under age 4 and under 40 pounds need to ride in a car seat with a harness. Older children need to ride in a booster seat until at least age 8, unless they are over 4-feet-9-inches tall. Most car seat manufacturers require rear-facing use until at least 1 year old and 22 pounds, however some require rear-facing until at least 2 years old. Read and follow instructions carefully.”
Most vehicles have LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), but is it safer to use LATCH or the car’s seat belt system? “Use either LATCH or the seat belt, not both, unless otherwise approved by the car seat and vehicle manufacturers. Both systems are equally safe. Use the system that is easiest for you so that you will use it correctly every time,” Veres says.
Safety Over Comfort
Don’t worry if your child’s feet touch the back of the seat; it’s still safer for them than facing forward before age 2. “There is actually a higher risk for a lower extremity injury when children are forward-facing, when their legs are thrown forward so forcefully in a crash, hitting the back of the front seats,” explained Veres. “Young children’s bodies are very flexible, allowing them to bend their legs and prop their feet up on the back of the vehicle seat and still be safe and comfortable.”
Veres also said the center seating position in the back seat is safest due to the chance of a side-impact crash. She encourages children to ride in the center back if the car seat can be tightly installed.
“Two of the most common misuses that CPS technicians find include a loose installation and loose harness,” Veres adds. “Car seats should be installed tightly with a locked seat belt or LATCH strap that doesn’t move more than 1 inch at the belt path. Harnesses need to be tight on the child’s chest and shoulders so that none of it can be pinched and pulled away from the child’s body.”
Grant yourself peace of mind and have your child’s car seat (and even booster seats) checked for proper installation.