Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for
children under age 13. In Illinois, one out of four children
who die in crashes is unrestrained. In 2014, 14 children,
(birth through nine years) were killed and 3,602 were
injured in motor vehicle crashes.
Researchers estimate that proper use of federally-approved
car seats could reduce child deaths by 71 percent and
injuries by 67 percent. National observational data shows
car seat usage rate for children under four years old is
above 90 percent while booster seat usage rates for children
four - seven is approximately 20 percent. Injury and
fatality data indicates that a similar pattern is true in
Did you know the most common mistakes made when installing a
child’s car seat can also be the most deadly?
1. Turning the child forward-facing too soon
Children should remain rear-facing as long as the car seat
allows, up to the height and weight limits of the car seat.
Car seats shells are designed to absorb crash forces.
Turning a child forward-facing too soon increases the
likelihood of injury to their head, neck and spine.
2. Not adjusting the harness snugly against the child
The harness properly positions the child in a car seat
and should be snug to provide the best protection. Harness
straps should lay flat against the child (not over heavy
clothing) and be snug enough that you cannot pinch excess
3. Not securing the car seat in the vehicle properly
Seat belts (or the LATCH system) are intended to secure
car seats to the vehicle and must be locked in place. Lap
and shoulder belts in the back seat typically lock by gently
pulling the shoulder webbing all the way out of the
retractor to put it in “locked” mode. Excess webbing is
pulled tight and recessed into the retractor.
4. Forgetting to register the car seat for recall
Car seats can be recalled by their manufacturer. By
registering your car seat, you will be notified if something
needs to be replaced or added to the car seat. Not at
recalls affect the safety of the car seat, but they can.
Make sure to label your car seat with emergency contact
information as well.
5. Having toys or other items unsecured in the vehicle
Anything not belted in or strapped down in a vehicle can
become a projectile in a crash. Phones, diaper bags, toys
and strollers are all potentially dangerous if not secured.
6. Not using the lower anchors/LATCH system as approved
Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) is a
vehicle system that can be used to secure the car seat, and
is an alternative to the seat belt. Lower Anchors do have
weight limits and are often designed to be used only in the
outside seating positions, not the center seat. Most LATCH
systems are also not designed to be used with a seat belt.
Check your car seat and vehicle’s owner’s manuals before
using the LATCH system.
7. Not using the top tether on a forward-facing car seat
The top tether of a car seat should be used for all
forward-facing car seat installations, whether using the
LATCH system or the seat belt. The top tether or “top strap”
keeps the top of the car seat from moving too far forward in
8. Moving to the next car seat or booster seat too soon
With every seat graduation, children lose a level of
protection. The booster seat helps an adult seat belt fit a
child. Children should outgrow the height and weight limits
of their forward-facing harness car seat before graduating
to a booster seat. Children are ready for the seat belt once
they are 4’9” and can sit correctly with the lap belt
crossing their hips and the shoulder belt crossing their