Keeping infants and children safe from auto accidents is one of the most important jobs of new parents. Unfortunately, for young children, motor vehicle collisions are a leading cause of death and serious injury. Many parents end up using car seats improperly even though they try to do the right thing and protect their children from injury.
Infants and toddlers are at greater risk of injury in automobile accidents for many reasons. Because children's brains and bodies are not fully developed yet, kids are especially susceptible to being badly hurt from the force of a collision. Seat belts and safety devices also are designed primarily to protect adult passengers.
This means that these safety devices can actually sometimes be dangerous for kids. Children could be hurt or killed due to airbags, for example, so parents are told that kids should sit in the back. Of course, car manufacturers tend to pay a lot of attention to safety features for the drivers and front-seat passengers, and the back of the car is a vulnerable place in rear-end crashes and when T-bone accidents happen.
Car seats help to provide more protection for kids. But, the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that parents often face difficulties using car seats properly. One study of 291 mothers found that 95 cent of car seats were not used properly for newborns. In 91 percent of the cases, the mistakes that were made by new mothers included "serious misuse," such as the seat retainer clip not being used or not being correctly placed; mistakes in the use of the lower anchor; the lower anchor being left unbuckled; or the car seat being set at an incorrect recliner angle. Critical misuse of car seats occurred at a similar level.
Parents may not only misuse car seats by not buckling them properly, but may also make mistakes in how car seats are actually installed in cars. Parents should consider visiting a police station when they are installing a car seat in order to get professional help with the installation of the car seat so children get the full measure of protection that the seat should provide.
Many parents also stop using car seats too soon. Parents of new babies are much better about the use of car seats than parents of older toddlers. Most experts recommend that car seats and booster seats should be used until a child turns around eight years old or older, depending upon the weight and size of the child. Most parents stop long before their children are big enough to be safe without a car seat. Continuing to keep children in the back of the car and to use booster seats for longer could help to keep children safer in case motor vehicle accidents occur.