Strapped In, but Still at Risk

by

Car Seats Remain a Vexing Safety Issue
Originally posted on nytimes.com.

CARSEAT-articleLargeGAITHERSBURG, Md. — For more than two hours, Xiaopeng Li struggled to securely install two rear-facing car seats for his young children in his Toyota Sienna minivan. 

Even then, Mr. Li, a research scientist, could not be sure he had done so correctly. So he drove to a nearby car dealership, where the Montgomery County Fire Rescue unit regularly offers help installing car seats.

“I thought I got it, but after I came in here, they said, ‘No, it’s wrong,’ ” said Mr. Li, 38, who has a Ph.D. and works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

He has plenty of company. Despite being in use for decades, car seats remain a vexing safety issue for families unable to figure out how to install them correctly.

About three of every four car seats are installed improperly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some communities that lack safety checks or education programs, the figure is even higher.

Automobile crashes remain the leading cause of death for children 13 and younger, according to federal regulators. A large number of the fatalities involve children in car seats.

Deaths of children in car seats declined to 397 in 2011 — the last year data was available from the traffic safety agency — from 614 in 2002. But auto safety experts say the numbers could be much lower with easier-to-use car seats and better instructions on how to strap them into vehicles.

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