Properly installed car seats save lives

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 18, 2017 at 4:18 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2017 at midnight

Parents often go to great lengths to protect their little ones. But studies show the majority of parents are doing car seats all wrong by making avoidable errors.

When a child's car seat is not properly installed, it matters little how much that seat actually cost. Even the most expensive seat can be misused in a way that could reduce its effectiveness.

Earlier this month, the Golden Crescent Traffic and Safety Coalition hosted a free car seat checkup event that drew high participation from parents and caregivers.

Of the 66 car seats inspected, only one was properly installed.

One of the biggest issues technicians found at the event was that some parents did not know the history or origin of their car seat. Purchasing a car seat on for-sale sites or garage sales puts children at risk because you don't know whether that seat has been in a wreck. The seat could be missing its safety labels or is expired. That steep discount is not worth it, considering that a brand-new seat can be purchased for less than $35.

Again, experts say it's not about the cost of the car seat. It is far more important to find a seat that can be properly installed in your vehicle and is appropriate for your child's size, according to Stephanie Christina, a traffic safety specialist for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Kudos to this local coalition for organizing such a successful event. The coalition had 13 certified car seat safety technicians on hand and multiple bays for vehicles to drive up and get an inspection. They gave out 30 new car seats - 18 of those were to replace old, expired seats or when the history of the seat was unknown.

The coalition is also spreading the word that free car seat safety inspections are available by appointment through various local agencies. This is a resource that has the potential to save lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 children who died in a motor vehicle collision in 2011 were not buckled up. Buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats and seat belts reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half.

Experts say another best practice is to keep toddlers rear-facing as long as possible to better protect against serious injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ride rear-facing until at least 2 years old or preferably until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.

Still, parents turn their seats around and rely on state law to guide them. The Texas law concerning rear-facing seats lags behind what is considered best practice. We should not settle for the minimum safety requirement.

We want to encourage parents and caregivers to seek help from an expert to ensure the safety of their children in vehicles. We have to consider what is best for our little ones. Make an appointment and get some peace of mind.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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