Tomorrow is National Car Seat Check Saturday, sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you’ve never had your child’s car seat inspected or installed by a trained car seat technician, tomorrow’s a great day to start.

According to the NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children 4 to 14 years old. An average of four kids age 14 and under die in car crashes every day and more than 500 are injured. But the use of child safety seats can reduce the likelihood of fatality by an estimated 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.

When my son was due five years ago, I scheduled an inspection at the CHP office in Martinez to make sure my husband had installed the infant car seat correctly. Although I had faith in my husband’s effort, I knew the odds were not in our favor. The NHTSA estimates that as many as 75% of car seats are not installed properly. We fell in that camp. The technician took one look at our seat, politely smiled, and said, “What was he thinking?” She then spent an hour completely re-installing it.

For baby number two, we bypassed step one and went straight to our local fire department. The technician installed two car seats, let my son sit in the fire truck, and talked to him about not poking the baby or putting small toys in her car seat. That was an hour well spent!

Take advantage of this free resource! Click here to find car seat inspection sites near you.

In the meantime, the NHTSA offers these car seat safety tips:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age, height, and weight.
  • All children younger than 8 years or under must be properly restrained in a correctly installed car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the car. Find more info on California’s car seat regulations.
  • Keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as your child fits the seat’s height and weight requirements.
  • Follow your car seat manufacturer’s instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual on how to install.
  • All children under 13 should ride in the back seat. The risk of fatality is close to 40 percent lower for children seated in the back seat than for those riding in the front.
  • Car seats should be replaced if they have been involved in an accident, even a minor one.

Updated Info from NHTSA:  More than one-third of children killed in crashes were not in car seats or wearing seatbelts.

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