BE SURE TO TAKE OUR “HOW TO INSTALL YOUR CAR SEAT” QUIZ AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE.
By Stacy Whitman
As a kid, my main car safety device came in the form of my mom. When she hit the brakes, she’d brace her right arm across my sister and me (who rode together in the front seat) to prevent us from sliding into the dashboard. Not to date myself, but this was before seat belt laws—and before most parents even knew about car seats.
Today, it’s a much different—and much less dangerous—story. Since the mid-1980s, all 50 states have passed laws requiring use of child safety seats, making car travel much safer for kids. In passenger cars, child restraints are 71 percent effective in reducing deaths among infants, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. In 2004, they saved an estimated 451 children age 5 and under. Those numbers would be higher if more parents used their car seats properly. Sadly, most don’t. In a recent NHTSA study, 73 percent of child restraint systems showed one or more “critical misuses.” The most common: loose harnesses, and seats not well secured to the car.