Car seats are crucial to keeping kids safe on the road - as a matter of fact, car seats can reduce the risk of death to children in car accidents by 71%. So we are all well aware car seats are necessary to protect our children, but there's a catch to that common knowledge. Car seats have to be properly installed and used in order to provide kids the greatest level of safety. And new research is revealing hidden dangers we all too easily overlook: all too often we're not installing car and booster seats the right way, and we might not even know it.
Julie Bing, a research engineer at Ohio State School of Medicine's Injury Biomechanics Research Center, authored a new study released in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention this month. What Bing found was alarming: 42% of the time, rear-facing child safety seats and vehicle seats are not properly aligned. So despite our best efforts, there are structural defects preventing us from fully securing our children in the back seats of our cars. While many parents may improvise with towels and pool noodles to stabilize car seats, such measures are frequently not enough to protect children in an accident.
To ensure that you've got the safest possible car seat for your child, Bing recommends the following steps:
- Before buying a car seat, examine your vehicle's back seat. Measure just how much space is available in every direction and take note of the angle of the vehicle's seat pan.
- Check the headrests. Are they adjustable or removable? Look at your owner's manual and see if you need to have the headrests at a certain setting to install a car seat.
- Before buying a car seat, talk to the manager of the store and see if they'll permit you to try out the car seat to check that it fits properly. A car seat might earn great safety ratings, but if it's not compatible with your car, then keep looking for one that is.
- If you're concerned about the safety of the child car seat you currently have, you can take it to a certified technician in your area for a safety inspection. They can let you know the best way to install your car seat and make sure it's in alignment with your vehicle's seating.
Because car seats can be so effective in shielding kids from serious injury and death during auto accidents, it's important that manufacturers adhere to the best safety standards and ensure compatibility with vehicles. In the meantime, however, it's up to parents to take the initiative in protecting their children.