National Child Passenger Safety Week may have come to an end for 2012, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options as far as making sure children’s car seats are installed safely and correctly.
State law requires children under age 4 to be restrained in a federally approved child safety seat, and older children must use a booster seat with a lap belt and shoulder harness. While the North Tonawanda Police Department suggests parents always read and follow the car seat instructions and vehicle owner’s manuals for proper use and installation, that doesn’t mean mistakes don’t creep in.
In fact, they do far more often than not.
“I would say ... probably 99 percent or so of the seats we have show up (at carseat checks) are installed incorrectly,” said Lt. Jim Daugherty of the NT Police Department. “That could mean one thing is wrong that we know of that the parent might not. For example, it might be in nice and tight, but the straps might be twisted.”
Tara Polilla, a child passenger safety technician with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, echoed his words. She estimates the only about 99.8 percent of the car seats she sees are being used correctly.
“I only get maybe one or two (installed perfectly) a year out of about 150 that I see,” she said.
Polilla listed a variety of issues that are common, from products added to the car seat that shouldn’t be, to rear-facing car seats at the wrong angle for the age of the child, to seatbelts that aren’t locked, expired car seats and retainer clips that aren’t at the right level.
“The retainer clip is often lower,” she said. “But if it’s not airpit level, the baby can become a projectile.”
While many issues have easy fixes, the majority of seats still have further problems, ones that can have serious consequences in a crash ... and need can major reinstallation to be safe.