Lee's Summit Journal

Nearly half of child car seats are misused. Here’s how to fix the problem

Kristin Schlenk
Kristin Schlenk

The most important task parents and caregivers have is keeping their kids safe.

One essential (and often overlooked) part of this responsibility is child passenger safety. As children grow and transition from one type of car seat to another, parents sometimes become less vigilant about ensuring their children are properly buckled in the right seats.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of car seats are misused. The latest data from the Administration also shows that more than one-third of the children who died in passenger vehicles in 2017 were not buckled up at all.

Child Passenger Safety Week begins on Sept. 15. This is a great time for parents and caregivers to learn about proper car seat installation and how to use car seats correctly. Make sure each child is in the correct car seat for his or her age and size, and ensure it is installed properly.

Children should be safely buckled up in their car seat every time, regardless of driver or distance. Because the consequences of misused car seats can be so disastrous, always take the time to read the car seat instructions and consult your vehicle manual.

Parents and caregivers can visit the inspection station at the Jackson County Health Department to have their children’s car seats inspected by certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. Technicians can discuss car seat selections, teach correct installation method for each car seat, and answer questions about transitioning children from one seat type to another.

Technicians can also show parents how to register their car seat with its manufacturer so that they’ll be notified in the case of recalls.

Additional inspection station locations can be found at nhtsa.gov/carseat

Stations offer these free services year-round by appointment.

Helpful car seat tips

Keep children in a rear-facing car seat until they outgrow the maximum height or weight of the car seat. If transitioning from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat, continue to keep children rear-facing in the convertible car seat until they outgrow the maximum height or weight for rear-facing.

Don’t forget the top tether. If you are using a forward-facing car seat, don’t forget to attach the top tether to the anchor (see vehicle owner’s manual for location).

Know your state’s car seat laws. Missouri law requires all children under 8 to be in a child safety seat or booster seat until they are 80 pounds or 4-food-9-inches tall.

Remember to remove the bulk. As temperatures start to get colder, remember not to place children with heavy/thick jackets on in car seats. Remove the jacket then buckle child into the harnessed car seat.

Do a pinch test. When riding in a harnessed car seat, children should be snug in their seats. To check, try the pinch test: if you can pinch the harness webbing together at their collar bone, then the harness is too loose.

Check the expiration date. All car seats expire. Look on the back of your child’s seat to find the expiration date.

Parents and caregivers can also visit nhtsa.gov/carseat to learn other tips on car seat safety, watch how-to videos, and sign up for car seat recall notifications.

Kristin Schlenk is a M.Ed certified passenger safety technician with the Jackson County Health Department. She is a guest author for the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.