RICHMOND, Va. -- The bags are packed, the gifts tucked in tight, but you forgot a key step in making sure your holiday travel goes off safely: checking your child’s safety seat.
An estimated 46% of child car seats are not used properly, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration, a startling number given they are the best way to protect your most precious cargo in a wreck.
The Richmond Ambulance Authority and AAA Mid-Atlantic are urging families to check their child’s car seat for proper installation before hitting the road this holiday season.
“They need a seat for their height, their weight, their size,” said Cpt. Ronnie Ruffin with RAA, their Child Seat Safety Technician. “Car seats are made for the protection of your little one. What manufacturers don’t do is make the car seat for the car.”
Since the features of each vehicle can vary widely, Ruffin said reading the manual that comes with your safety seat is the first big step. Ruffin said the most common mistake they see is families latching the child seat to their vehicle too loosely.
“The way the car seat is latched is what we consider the base of the seat. That needs to be tight. From time to time just check it to make sure nothing is underneath it around it because things just slowly come loose,” Ruffin said. “You want to make sure the base of this car seat is tight and snug. This way it gives the one-inch buffer from side to side.”
The “one inch of wiggle room” should be for the base’s edge farthest away from your vehicle’s seat back, whether installing the child seat with a seatbelt or pre-installed latches. Families can choose either the seatbelt or latches to secure the seat, but both are not needed, Ruffin said.
“What gives the car seat the most resistance and snugness. Most of the time, parents can just choose,” Ruffin said.
Before heading out, make sure loose items that can turn into projectiles are removed from the vehicle, and that the harness that goes around your child fits properly.
“Probably the most missed thing is don't put your kid in your car seat with a heavy, bulky jacket or blanket. We all want children to be warm, but the best fit is to get them into the car seat, making sure you have that two-finger room between [their chest and] the harness and that they're comfortable,” Ruffin said.
Properly installed car seats are the best method to reduce the risk of serious injury or death of a child when they ride in a vehicle. The CDC said kids buckled into a car seat are more than 70% less likely to get hurt in a wreck.