Parents urged to check child safety seats

Parents urged to check child safety seats The millions of parents who diligently check their engine fluids and tire pressure before making summer vacation car trips should add one more thing to the checklist: child safety seats. Fewer than one in six child seats are installed correctly, according to new data from AAA.

"Parents make detailed plans to get the oil changed, stop home newspaper delivery and even pack snacks before a big family car trip, yet many don't take five minutes to check that their young passengers will be safe," said Cheri Cihak, director of public affairs for AAA South Dakota. "By adding this to their pre-trip checklist, parents can travel with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their little ones are safe."

An analysis of more than 1100 safety seat inspections in the new AAA Safety Seat Database (online at showed that 85 percent of seats were installed or used incorrectly. The top five mistakes parents made were: not installing the seat tightly (64 percent of all seats); harness straps not snug on child (28 percent); retainer clips not at armpit level (19 percent); locking clips used incorrectly (19 percent); and harness threaded incorrectly (11 percent).

AAA encourages parents and other caregivers to take five minutes to check these top five mistakes made in using child safety seats:

1. Check that the safety seat is installed tightly. Grab the child seat where the seat belt threads through it and pull. It should not lift move more than one inch from side to side. If it does, it is not tight enough.

2. Be sure the harness straps are pulled tight to the child. The harness should be snug and lie flat on the child so that no slack can be pinched in the straps.

3. Position the retainer clip at the child's armpit level when the harness is snug. An improperly positioned retainer clip causes the harness straps to fit incorrectly.

4. Check that the locking clip is in the right place and is threaded correctly. Child safety seat manuals and car owner's manuals give specific information about using locking clips. For additional help, parents should contact a child seat technician or attend a child safety seat check.

5. Harness straps must not be twisted and should be routed through the appropriate slots for the direction that the seat is facing. Rear-facing seats should have the straps at or below the child's shoulder; forward-facing seats should have straps at or above the child's shoulders.

For more information on child safety seats contact AAA South Dakota. If you live in the Sioux Falls area and would like your child's car seat installation inspected, contact AAA South Dakota at 605-336-3690 and make an appointment. Or go to and click on "Child Passenger Safety Contact Locater" to find a certified technician near you.

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