Report: Few people are using child safety seats properly

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – According to the non-profit group, Safe Kids USA, more than 65% of parents are using tether straps on child safety seats improperly. According to statistics collected by the group, 30% use tether straps on the top of safety seats, which keep a child's head secure in the event of a crash. Police officers across Jonesboro and Paragould told Region 8 News those numbers need to be improved.

"We got through a week class. We went to Jonesboro. The Seat Belt Coalition, they put it on. It's put on by Mike Smith," said Jack Hailey, who is a certified child safety seat technician. "Each car, there's a LATCH system, how it works on car seats when you go to install them, stuff like that. (We learned) how to install the car seats properly so the children are safe when they're in those.

Hailey said parents overwhelmingly do not know how to properly install child safety seats. Click here for more information about how to install various seats. Hailey said the Paragould Police Department would hold a safety seat clinic sometime in November. Jonesboro police told Region 8 News a child safety seat clinic will be held October 1st from 9 a.m. to noon in the back parking lot of the old Indian Mall.

"Arkansas Children's Hospital, they estimate that about 75% of all seats that are put in by parents are put in improperly," said Hailey. "A lot of it comes down to the seat belts, when someone puts them in, they pull the seat belt out and click it into the latch, which the seat belt doesn't lock or a lot of seat belts don't lock until you pull them all the way out. Then as you let them go back in, you'll hear that ratchet sound when it goes back in."

Hailey said the federal government passed a law, requiring automakers to manufacture cars with special safety features for child seats. One such feature involved the LATCH system. LATCH, or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, was part of a $152 million rule to save lives. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration, the program is preventing approximately 3,600 injuries each year.

"The recommendation is when you install a seat, it should have no more than one inch movement side to side. It should be so secure in that car that when you grab the side of it and move it, it should not move more than one inch either way," said Hailey. "They're going to move back and forth, because that's the way, especially for an infant seat, they're designed for that. But as far as side to side, you shouldn't have movement more than one inch."

Hailey said there is a difference in the type of seats used.

"Those seats (infant) are designed, is one the baby is inside, if it swings up, the seat folds up, they're still in like a cocoon inside that seat. They're not sitting in the seat where they're up above the outside of it," said Hailey. "We recommend the infant seat is for a child who is up to one year old and 20 pounds. You do get into the case a lot of times when you have kids that are not one years old, but they may be hitting that 20 pound mark."

Teachers have also noticed the lack of knowledge involving child safety seats.

"Most of the time when they were there doing their car seats, they would just put them in however it fits in their car. They don't pay attention to the angles and most of the car seats have a reference guide on where they're supposed to sit," said Sarah Brown, nurse at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Paragould. "A lot of times they'll keep them in the convertible seats longer than their supposed to be."

Brown said the price of seating sometimes adds to the problem. Some seats can cost as low as 30 dollars compared to some that are a few hundred dollars.

"You see that quite a bit. Especially a lot of times babies going home from the hospital. They don't have the appropriate size that they need to go home, and some of the babies are a lot smaller than like say, a baby that's under five pounds or hits right at five pounds and their car seat isn't approved for five pounds and they're going home," said Brown.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.