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New research sheds light on parents and correct car seat installation, use

booster seat
Photo: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Washington — Only 1 out of 5 parents and caregivers seek expert help about installing a car seat or securing a child in a seat – and the majority of car seats brought to child passenger safety technicians for inspection aren’t properly installed and used, a recent data review has concluded.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 183,000 children (more than 500 a day) were injured in car crashes in 2018 – making it the leading safety issue facing children, a press release from AAA states.

Researchers used data from the National Digital Car Seat Check Form – a free resource to help child passenger safety technicians digitally document car seat checks, developed in partnership by six organizations, including the National Safety Council, AAA and NHTSA. They found that the most common mistakes are installing a car seat too loosely, failure to use the tether when installing a forward-facing seat with either the lower anchors or a seat belt, and leaving harness straps too loose when securing a child in a seat.


As their child grows, parents and caregivers tend to not properly transition them to new seats, the data shows. More than 25% of children are moved to forward-facing seats from rear-facing too soon, and 90% of children younger than 10 years old using lap-and-shoulder seat belts should still be in a car seat or booster seat.

Additionally, even though 73% of forward-facing seats are incorrectly installed, they’re four times less likely to be inspected by safety technicians than rear-facing seats.

Parents and caregivers can better understand the four stages of child passenger safety by taking the free online course Car Seat Basics from the National Child Passenger Safety Board, a program managed by NSC. More resources, including free car seat inspections at AAA branch offices, are available by visiting AAA.com/SafeSeats4Kids.

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