AAA Kansas recognizes National Child Passenger Safety Week Sept. 17-23

TOPEKA – Every day in America, too many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly, or are riding in the wrong car seats for their ages and sizes. Even worse, many other children ride while completely unbuckled. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three car seats are misused. During National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 17-23, AAA Kansas urges parents to review Kansas car seat law, be sure children are in the proper seat or booster for their age and size, avoid common mistakes, and seek expert assistance with car seat installation.

“Car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for Kansas children ages 5 through 17,” said Jennifer Haugh, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Kansas. “Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your children safe. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference.”

Kansas Child Car Seat Laws

Kansas law requires use of a car seat or booster seat until children are at least eight years old or 80 pounds or 4’9” tall. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommends a 4-step evolution of child passenger restraints from rear-facing and front-facing car seats to booster seats and then transitioning to seat belts. For ages and these recommended steps, visit www.kansasboosterseat.org.

Parents can find variety of additional car seat and booster seat resources including how to find the right seat for your child, proper installation tips, and car seat inspection/check-up events by using online resources from the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office (www.ktsro.org/child-passenger-safety) and Safe Kids Kansas (http://www.safekidskansas.org/child_passenger.htm).

“Parents have the best of intentions when using a car seat but they may be placing their child in harm’s way by using the wrong seat or due to simple installation mistakes, without being aware of it,” notes AAA Kansas’ Haugh. “Anyone using a child safety seat in their vehicle should educate themselves, even if they’ve been using one for years, to make sure it’s installed correctly.”

Seven Common Car Seat Mistakes

Not using a safety seat. Whether an infant, toddler or booster seat-age child, parents should always use the appropriate child restraint system every time their children are in a vehicle. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers according to NHTSA. And, using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent.

Not reading safety seat instructions. Three out of four child safety seats are installed incorrectly according to NHTSA. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it’s important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing a seat to ensure it’s done properly.

Using restraints for older children too soon. Whether it’s turning an infant forward-facing or progressing into an adult seat belt, parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers not be turned to face forward until they are at least age two and the maximum weight for the seat. Infants should remain rear-facing until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.

Installing safety seats too loosely. When a child safety seat is properly installed, it should not move more than one inch in any direction. Parents should use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat—but not both, unless approved by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. If using a seat belt, make sure it is locked to hold the seat snugly in place.

Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child’s body upright and against the seat. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.

Gadgetry: If it didn’t come with the seat (or wasn’t purchased from the manufacturer to use with the seat), it wasn’t crash-tested with the seat. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, mirrors and toys.

Not replacing seats after a crash or using one without knowing its history: Check your manual to see if the seat should be replaced even after a minor fender-bender and even if no child was in the seat at the time. Also, never buy a used car seat, and never accept a free used one unless you’re sure that it’s never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, there may be damages that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy a cheap, new seat than a high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.

AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than 342,000 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.