In the United States, car accidents are the number-one cause of death among children ages 4 to 12 and the number-two cause of death among children ages 1 to 4. Studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), among other organizations, show that the best way to decrease the risk of injury and death for children is to properly install and use the appropriate car seat for your child. We’ve gathered the facts and stats to give you some insight into just how crucial it is to have the correct car seat installed properly.
The chances that your child will be in a car accident at some point are pretty high, and understanding how car seat safety can affect the outcome of an accident is eye-opening.
- 21% of parents think they don’t need to buckle up their children for short trips, and 12% said it was acceptable if you are in a rush. (Source) However, most crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at slower speeds (40 mph or less). Source
- A child is involved in a car accident every 33 seconds. Source
- On average, three children were killed and 470 children were injured in traffic accidents every day in 2013. Source
- 26% of children ages 8 and under who died in car accidents in 2014 were not restrained by a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. Source
- Between 2010 and 2015, almost 50% of kids ages 8 to 14 who died in car crashes were not wearing a seatbelt. Source
Child safety seats: The best way to protect your kids
When car seats and booster seats are installed correctly and used according to the recommended guidelines, they can prevent injury and even save the lives of your kids.
- Car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants under 1 year old and 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4. Source
- Children between 4 and 8 are 45% less likely to be injured if they’re in a booster seat rather than a seat belt. Source
- The NHTSA recommends all children 12 and under be restrained in the back seat rather than the front seat. This correct restraint is estimated to reduce the chance of injury and death by more than 30%. Source
- The AAP advises parents to keep their children in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2 or until the child reaches the height/weight limits for the car seat. Children should also ride using a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches and are between the ages of 8 and 12.
- Rear-facing car seats are up to five times more effective than forward-facing car seats in protecting and preventing injury for children up to 23 months. Source
Incorrect car seat installation and use
Not only is using a car seat important, but installing it correctly also increases your child’s safety in the car. A 2015 study by the NHTSA showed some alarming trends in car seat misuse, where “misuse” was defined as incorrect installation of the child safety seat or restraint of a child in a way that would reduce the protection of the seat in a crash. Source
- An average of 46% of child safety seats are incorrectly installed or misused. Source
- 49% of rear-facing infant car seats were misused. The most frequent type of misuse was an incorrect amount of recline in the car seat. Rear-facing seats should recline between 30 and 45 degrees, but the study found that the angle was less than 30 degrees for 16% of rear-facing infant car seats. Source
- 61% of forward-facing car seats were misused. The most common type of misuse was too-loose installation. A forward-facing car seat should not be able to move side to side more than one inch, but 17% of the car seats in the study could move more than two inches. Source
- 20% of booster seats were misused. The most common misuse was an improper lap belt position. The lap belt should be placed across the hips and thighs of a child, but in 9%–12% of booster seats (highback and backless), the belt was placed across the stomach or ribs of the child. Source
Don’t wait to do it right
The bottom line is that the chance of preventing a tragic outcome to a traffic accident significantly increases when you use a car seat and do so correctly. Always check the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations for your car seat as well as the installation instructions and follow all of these guidelines. If you are a new or expecting parent, check out our car seat safety guide and top recommendations for buying a car seat. Above all, simply be proactive about securing your children every time they are in the car. Don’t wait to be sure that your child is safe!