Atlanta, Ga - ATLANTA, Ga.---Traffic wrecks are the number one cause of death for children. Child Passenger Safety Week is coming up this month and a properly installed car seat is a huge way to keep your child safe. We sent our own, mommy-to-be Good Day Atlanta's Katie Beasley out in the field to get a professional child car seat check for her upcoming arrival.
Step one: always start with the manuals, both for your car and for your car seat. "This actually maybe doesn't look that bad. Famous last words right?" Katie jinxes herself.
Within minutes, Katie is confused, "Alright, so they say something's supposed to be under here..."
She's looking for the child restraint anchor system, called LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tether for Children.
After a few minutes of poking around, she finds them, and puts her mommy muscles to work. "Aha, we got it!" She exclaims after attaching the car seat to the vehicle.
After it was level, and looked about right, Katie decided it was time to call in the big guns. Zetta Jones is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician with the Department of Public Health Injury Prevention Program.
"98 percent of caregivers believe they had it correct, but greater than 70 percent were actually incorrect in installing and using their car seats," Zetta says.
Zetta eyes Katie's installation and gives it a failing grade. Problem one lies with the nice seat pad she bought to protect her leather. "I'm looking through your manual and I don't see where it says you're allowed to place anything under this seat, so I would suggest you call the manufacturer and ask them prior to placing anything under this seat," explains Zetta.
Then Zetta checks the installation. "I can see right off you have your lower anchors through the correct belt pass good thing. I'm also looking at the angle indicator and we have a red between two arrows," she says.
All infant car seats should sit at a 45 degree angle, to help keep the baby's head stabilized and airway open. "The 45 degree angle is very important and so you did a good job with that! Yay!" Zetta says. "Yay!" Katie echoes.
But then it's time to check how snug the car seat base is installed. "We're looking for no more than one inch side to side and front to back at the belt path," Zetta is able to move the car seat base side to side about four inches. "Not an inch right? So what we will need to do is tighten this up."
When installing a car seat, every little step makes a difference. "That one misstep could result in devastating effects," Zetta adds.
Most are common problems she sees every day. "We see these mistakes a lot and that's why it's important to seek out that child passenger safety technician who's been exclusively trained to do this," she encourages.
Katie passed her installation after getting rid of the seat pad, tightening up the straps and getting the pretend baby in the seat safe and sound.
Zetta says the LATCH system that's in newer vehicles is just as safe as using the seat belt to loop through. She suggests, if you have the option, you should do whichever one you can install correctly every ride, every time.
If you want to find a certified child passenger safety technician near you, visit: http://www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/cps/index.htm?
The Georgia Department of Public Health says you can also contact the Injury Prevention Center at: Injury@dph.Ga.Gov or 404-679-0500 and receive a personalized call or email back.