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Despite What You Think, Your Child’s Car Seat May Not Be Safe

Protecting the Safety of South Carolina Children

shutterstock_178774919When you are expecting a child, purchasing a child safety seat is one of the most important decisions to consider.  There are a variety of options to choose from, and although protecting your child is foremost in your mind, he or she may not be as safe in the back seat of your vehicle as you think.

There are many reasons that your child’s car seat may not work as expected. They are often difficult to install because the back-seat designs of most cars do not fit child safety seats properly, despite design changes recommended more than a decade ago.

In fact, only 21 out of 98 vehicles tested met all of the requirements for ease of use, according to a report done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Shockingly, seven of the vehicles tested didn’t meet any of the requirements.

The government mandated an attachment system, known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to be put in place after inspections found child-safety seats were frequently installed incorrectly.

A 2004 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found three out of four child seats and booster seats had a “critical misuse” issue that could increase the risk of injury to the child in the event of an accident.

During the study, cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks were tested to determine whether child-seat anchors were in fact visible, easily accessible, and usable without excessive force. Excessive force was defined as the amount of force used to secure the seat. If 40 pounds of force was required for proper installation, the vehicle didn’t pass.

The study also found that belt buckles and other seat hardware could get in the way of the child seat connectors, and that the anchors could become buried in the seat and therefore be out of reach. Researchers futher found that parents fail to use the upper tether that is designed to secure the top part of the car seat in the event of a crash. The straps prevent front-facing child seats from moving forward too much in a crash, which can cause the child to suffer head and neck injuries.

Car companies are now on the defensive, making statements attacking child seat makers. Chrysler stated that “there are many different sizes and shapes of child restraint systems on the market” that automakers have to consider. Ford said LATCH “ease of use…is highly dependent on the design of the child-restraint hardware that attaches to the anchor.”

Joseph Colella became an advocate for chld safety after his 3-year-old niece died in a 1994 crash in a child seat that didn’t fit the car. Collela has pushed to make child seats more compatible. He is credited with helping the effort that lead to the federal recommendation of LATCH.

“Compatibility issues need to be taken seriously by manufacturers,” Collela says. “A 2012 vehicle needs to work with today’s car seat designs, but it must also be compatible with models developed over the next 20 years.”

Currently, trade groups representing cars and child seat makers are working to address such issues.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers free car seat inspections.  For a list of local inspections sites, click here.

Have questions?  Contact the Strom Law Firm, LLC .   We are conveniently located in Columbia, South Carolina and offer a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.  803.252.4800.



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