TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Auto accidents remain the leading cause of accidental death for children.
The best way parents can keep their most precious cargo safe is by properly using child safety seats, but mistakes are common.
Cherie Sage, director of Safe Kids Kansas, says approximately eight of every 10 car seats that pass through their check laness have some misuse, and the average number of mistakes found is three.
Sage says people tend to learn intuitively about products they buy, but, when it comes to car seats, people have to read instructions.
Among the common mistakes is ensuring the base of the seat is installed at the proper angle. Tim McCool, traffic safety specialist with the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office, says most seats now have indicators. He says it's important to have the seat situated in such a way to support a young infant's head, but, if it's too upright, the head can be rocked forward and disrupt the child's airway.
Once the base is at its proper level, it must be locked in place. McCool and Sage says it's important to put muscle into it, even putting a knee into the seat cushioning for extra leverage. To test that the seat is tight enough, shake it side to side and front to back. McCool says the goal is to have less than one inch of movement.
Sage says another common error is to think two is better than one when anchoring the base into the vehicle. She says to choose either the vehicle's built in-latch system or the seatbelt, but not both. She says using both at once can put improper strain on the seat.
Proper positioning of the straps also is key. Sage says the cross strap should be even with the armpits. The other straps are at the shoulders and parents should use the pinch test - if any slack can be pinched, tighten them up. Sage says straps that are too loose or too low create potential for a child to be ejected from the car seat during an accident.
As for where in the vehicle to position the car seat, experts say the back seat is the safest. McCool says most injury accidents are side impact, so putting the seat in the center back can get away from the impact. However, he says side airbags also offer protection for seats placed on the sides.
Free Car Seat Check Lanes:
Safe Kids Shawnee County is offering three safety seat check lanes in Topeka during Child Passenger Safety Week. They are 4 to 7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the KMart on Wanamaker; 4 to 7 pm Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Dillons at 1400 SW Huntoon; and 9 am to noon Saturday, Sept. 21 at Ed Bozarth, 3731 SW Topeka Boulevard.