February 4, 2005

85 percent of child seats installed incorrectly

Burnsville, Minnesota – Millions of parents who regularly check their engine fluids and tire pressure should add one more thing to the checklist: child safety seats, says Jeff Ogden, President of AAA Minnesota/Iowa.

“Fewer than one in six child seats are installed and used correctly, according to data from AAA. An analysis of more than 1,100 safety seat inspections in the new AAA Safety Seat Database showed that 85 percent of seats were installed or used incorrectly. The top five mistakes parents made were: not installing the seat tightly (64 percent of all seats); harness straps not snug enough (28 percent); retainer clips not at armpit level (19 percent); locking clips used incorrectly (19 percent); and harness threaded incorrectly (11 percent).”

The AAA encourages parents and other caregivers to take five minutes to check the top five mistakes made in the use of child safety seats:

First, make sure the safety seat is installed tightly. Grab the child seat where the seat belt threads through it and pull. It should not lift up more than one inch or move more than one inch from side to side. If it does, it is not tight enough.

Second, be certain the harness straps are pulled tight to the child. The harness should be snug and lie flat on the child so that no slack can be pinched in the straps.

Third, position the retainer clip at the child’s armpit level when the harness is snug. An improperly positioned retainer clip causes the harness straps to fit incorrectly.

Fourth, if a locking clip is needed, check that it is in the right place and is threaded correctly. Child safety seat manuals and car owner’s manuals give specific information about using locking clips.

Fifth, make sure the harness straps are not twisted and are routed through the appropriate slots for the direction that the seat is facing. Rear-facing seats should have the straps at or below the child’s shoulders; forward-facing seats should have the straps at or above the child’s shoulders.

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