AAA: Most child car seats not properly installed
Three out of four car seats are still not properly installed, according to the American Automobile Association, despite technologies aimed at simplifying car seat installation.
AAA’s recent survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians reveals there is widespread misuse of the ten-year-old Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. The survey shows that nearly three quarters of certified technicians have observed parents misusing the LATCH system about half the time.
Touted by the AAA as a user-friendly alternative to the seat belt, LATCH has been required in nearly all vehicles since September 2002.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75 percent of parents with experience installing car seats using both methods prefer LATCH.
Even so, LATCH does not guarantee a perfect installation. A recent survey revealed that only 13 percent of parent volunteers were able to use LATCH correctly.
The top misuses reported in the survey include:
• Using LATCH in the rear-center seating position when not permitted by the vehicle manufacturer. An IIHS study of 2010-2011 model year vehicles found just 7 of the 98 top-selling vehicles supported LATCH use in the rear-center seat, even though safety experts have long promoted that seat position as the safest for children. AAA says parents should always consult the vehicle owner’s manual prior to installing a car seat in any vehicle.
• Using both the seatbelt and the LATCH system to install the car seat. Parents may think using both the seat belts and LATCH system will provide additional protection, but the opposite may be true, says the AAA. In the event of a crash, belts are designed to expand and absorb crash forces. If both systems are used, these crash forces may be distributed improperly, resulting in injury or death. Unless the vehicle owner’s manual and car seat manual approve using both methods together, select either the seatbelt or the LATCH system.
• Using the wrong belt path with LATCH attachments to install the car seat. Convertible car seats have belt baths for both rear-facing and forward facing installations. When installing the car seat, the AAA advises, consult the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to determine which belt path to use. Otherwise, the seat will be improperly secured.
The AAA says the survey also indicated that parents use all types of everyday items, from bungee cords and plywood to zip ties and shoe laces to secure car seats. AAA said these common items can interfere with proper installation and can become projectiles in a crash.
Visit www.seatcheck.org or call 866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243 for assistance. For additional information on AAA’s child passenger safety resources, visit SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com
(photo courtesy Premier Law Group)