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Is Your Child’s Car Seat Installed Properly? [AUDIO]

Is your child’s car seat properly installed? A new study by AAA finds many parents are still missing the mark.

FLickr User LizMarie_AK

In fact, it is estimated that nearly three out of four car seats are not properly installed. Despite technologies, such as Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, aimed at simplifying the car seat installation process, many parents are still having difficulties.

AAA’s recent survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), those certified to inspect and properly install car seats, reveals that LATCH misuse is cause for concern. Nearly 3/4 of CPSTs surveyed observe parents misusing the LATCH system more than half of the time.

“While strides have been made to make car seats easier to use, the overwhelming majority of car seats are still not installed properly,” cautioned Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “AAA reminds parents to protect their most precious cargo by having their car seat installations inspected by a professional.”

The top misuses reported by CPSTs in the AAA recent survey:

Using LATCH in the rear-center seating position when not permitted by the vehicle manufacturer

Safety experts have long promoted the rear-center seat as the safest seating position for children. However, in an IIHS study of 2010-11model year vehicles, only 7 of the 98 top-selling vehicles supported LATCH use in the rear-center seat. Many parents make the mistake of using the inner anchor for each outboard seat to install a car seat in the center seat using LATCH. If the vehicle does not support a LATCH installation in the rear-center seat, use a seat belt to secure the car seat, or move the car seat to an outboard seat. Be sure to always consult the vehicle owner’s manual before installing a car seat in any vehicle.

Using both the seat-belt AND the LATCH system to install the car seat

While parents may think using both the seat belt and the LATCH system will provide additional protection, the opposite may be true. In the event of a crash, belts are designed to expand and absorb crash forces. If both systems are used, the crash forces may be distributed improperly, resulting in injury or death. Unless both the vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s manual approve using both methods together, select either the seatbelt or the LATCH system.

Using the wrong belt path with the LATCH attachments to install the car seat.

Convertible car seats have belt paths for both rear-facing and forward-facing installations. When installing the car seat, consult the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to determine which belt path to use. Selecting the incorrect belt path will leave the seat improperly secured.

“Some techs have reported parents using all types of everyday items, such as shoe laces, bungee cords and plywood and zip ties to secure car seats” said Sue Madden, AAA spokesperson. “This could interfere with installation and the items could potentially become projectiles in the event of a crash.”

Madden recommends consulting an expert for all car seat installations.

“Even if you are sure your child’s car seat is properly installed, go get it checked anyway and if you’re a new parent and need help go there to get yours installed the correct way.”

Experts are available to help parents with their car seat installation by visiting your local AAA club, Seatcheck.org, or by calling 866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243).

“Unfortunately, many kids die every year in accidents where car seats were not properly installed and by having them checked, we can avoid a lot of these accidents” said Madden.

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