The best child safety seat may not offer much protection if not properly installed. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced this week a new five-star government rating system that ranks child safety seats on how easy they are to install and use.
“Even the safest car seat can’t protect a child if it isn’t installed correctly,” Peters said. “These new star ratings arm parents with the best information and challenge manufacturers to make car seats that are easier for parents to use.”
Seven out of 10 child safety seats are either the wrong size for the child or seriously misused, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. When properly used, child restraint systems reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars. In light trucks, fatal injuries are reduced by nearly 60 percent for infants and toddlers.
Peters said the new rating system does not measure how effective a child seat is in protecting a child in the event of a crash, but rather compares how easy one seat is to use when compared with other seats. All child restraints sold in the U.S. already are required to comply with federal safety standards to provide a high level of crash protection for children.
Under the new five star ratings, child safety seats are awarded an overall star rating, as well as individual star ratings in four categories: securing the child, vehicle installation features, labeling and instructions.
The new star ratings are available through NHTSA for 78 child safety seats currently on the market. New models will be rated as they are introduced, said Nicole Mason, NHTSA administrator.
“These changes will make it easier for consumers to compare products and determine which child safety seat is easiest for their daily routines,” Mason said.
“There are numerous hospitals and fire departments around the state that provide child car seat installation training and car seat inspection,” said Kevin Bittner, ITD’s child passenger safety specialist for Idaho. “They have trained technicians that can answer all installation questions.”
He added that people may contact his office at (208) 334-8102 for the locations and contact numbers for sites or the Idaho Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics at (208) 342-7642.
He also encouraged people to visit Idaho’s Child Passenger Safety website for additional child passenger information at www.itd.idaho.gov, click on highways and then the Office of Highway Safety home page where there is a link to child safety seat information.
The government recommends car seats for children up to 40 pounds and booster seats for children over 40 pounds until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. All children should ride in the back seat until age 13.