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Nearly All Child Car Seats Used Improperly

circa 1965:  A small boy holding a lollipop sits in a carseat in a car, 1960s.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Photograph by Getty Images

The importance of child car seats is etched in parents’ brains since the day their babies are born: In fact, you can’t leave the hospital without one. And yet in spite of the progress we’ve made in getting them into American’s cars, child car seats face yet another hurdle: improper use.

“Having a seat in the car and using it correctly are two different things,” said Andrew Turnage, child passenger safety coordinator at The University of Georgia’s Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute. In fact, officials estimate that nearly 100 percent of all child restraint seats are used incorrectly.

This problem came to light during Operation Thunder, where cops in Richmond County, Georgia recorded 488 citations of child seat violations over a three-month period. Some of the primary abuses were fairly obvious: kids not in their seats, sitting in the seats but not being buckled in. But other errors were subtler, like loose straps or seats facing forward when they should be facing backward. Still other problems stem from car seats being too old. Even though they last six years, weather damage and wear and tear can compromise a child’s safety much sooner than that.

To combat this problem, Turnage offered classes in correct child car seat usage to police deputies with the hopes that they’d pass this knowledge onto parents. But more must be done on a national level. For one, why don’t the companies that sell these car seats offer free courses on how to properly use their product? Any parent who’s ever tried to install a car seat knows it’s a tiresome, head-scratching, tear-your-hair-out ordeal. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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