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New Research Shows That Parents Still Struggle With Proper Child Safety Seat Use


Safe Kids USA Invites Parents to Seat Check Events During National Child Passenger Safety Week

Washington, D.C. – New Safe Kids USA research shows that proper use of child safety seats has improved slightly with improper or non-use of top tethers as the greatest area of concern. The study is the largest ever of its kind and used standardized data of 79,000 child safety seat inspections over a full year. It was released for National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 18-24. The analysis assesses the individual elements of successful installations, in contrast to previous analyses that focused on gross levels of misuse in child safety and booster seats.

Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children ages 3-14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A key finding of the study was that less than 1/3 of the forward facing child seats arriving at seat check events used a top tether. A top tether is a strap at the top of the car seat that hooks to a tether anchor in the vehicle, and which provides added protection to children by helping to reduce the forward movement of child’s head in a crash. Even for those who used a tether on a forward-facing seat, it was used correctly only 59 percent of the time.

“As a nation, we must improve child safety in vehicles by adopting use of the top tether that is on virtually all forward-facing car seats and can be attached to anchors in every car made after 1999.” said Torine Creppy, Executive Director of Safe Kids Buckle Up (SKBU), Safe Kids USA’s multifaceted child passenger safety program. Top tethers are mostly used on forward-facing seats for children under 40-48 pounds.

The study also found that while parents are doing a better job keeping children in rear-facing seats for a longer period – 41 percent of children greater than 20 pounds and 32 percent of children over age 1 were still riding in the rear-facing direction – there is a continuing need to educate about the criteria to transition between seat types.

“With parents across the country relying on child safety seats to protect their children as they go about their daily routines, it’s critical that we ensure these devices are properly installed in every vehicle and on every trip,” said David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator. “In just a few minutes, certified technicians at safety inspection stations nationwide can help caregivers ranging from those with new babies to longtime parents get the peace of mind that comes from knowing how to properly remove and reinstall child safety and booster seats for children of all ages.”

Safe Kids USA will host more than 400 car seat checkup events during National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 18-24. The times and location for these events can be found at

The study also found that:

*98 percent of caregivers keep children 13 and under in a rear seat.
*CPS technicians found 99 percent compatibility between vehicles and child safety and booster seats.
*68 percent of child safety and booster seats were connected using seatbelts when leaving the checkup, 30 percent using lower anchors.
*Parents did best with belt-positioning booster seats and rear-facing convertible seats when using seat belts.
*Parents still struggle with installation and use of infant seats without a base.
*91 percent of parents knew the history of their child safety seats – purchased, gift or hand-me-down.

“Many kids are still transitioning prematurely up the ladder of child safety seat types,” said Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “I’m encouraged that some parents recognize that the greatest safety benefits are achieved when they follow the latest guidelines on when to move kids from rear-facing to forward-facing seats; forward-facing to boosters, and from boosters into adult safety belts.”

“Safe Kids is moving quickly to apply the lessons learned from the study,” continued Creppy. “The training curriculum for CPS technicians will make use of this data when it is updated in 2012. Feedback will be provided to vehicle and child safety seat manufacturers. We’re improving Safe Kids data collection techniques for future studies. And statistics regarding the compatibility between child safety seats and vehicles has been quantified and will be provided to Federal government researchers.”

“This important study shows that parents still need help in determining how to best protect their children in a vehicle,” said Vivian Pickard, President of the General Motors Foundation, the sponsor of SKBU. “When in doubt about proper car seat use, parents should take advantage of the many resources that are available through Safe Kids USA and others.”

The SKBU program is a child passenger safety program of Safe Kids USA in partnership with the General Motors Foundation. Since 1997, SKBU has inspected 1.4 million cars seats; held approximately 65,000 car seat checkup events; and donated nearly 500,000 cars seats to families in need. To date, more than 21 million people have been exposed to Safe Kids Buckle Up events and community outreach efforts. For more information on the Safe Kids Buckle Up program and Safe Kids’ local car seat inspection events visit:

About Safe Kids USA
Safe Kids USA is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and the more than 20 member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. For more information visit

About the GM Foundation:
Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to deserving American charities, educational organizations and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on supporting Education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Energy and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates. For more information, visit


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