More than 90 percent of children are at risk because you might be doing something wrong

Sobering statistics remind of need for National Child Passenger Safety Week

Child Passenger Safety Week is a chance for parents to consult with experts to make sure their child's car seat is properly installed. (File Photo by Mara Kuhn / Hot Springs (Arkansas) Sentinel-Record)

More than 90 percent of child-restraint seats on the road right now are installed incorrectly, according to national statistics.

Think about that number: 90 percent of children are at greater risk of injury or death because the seats designed to keep them safe in the event of an accident are not properly installed.

National Child Passenger Safety Week, which continues through Saturday, is an effort to address these concerns by raising awareness of the importance of a properly installed car seat and offering hands-on instruction on how to do it right.

Important safety reminders

› Every car and every car seat or booster seat has different installation instructions, so make sure you read both.› As children grow, so do their restraint types (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat or seat belt). Always use the one that fits your child’s current size.› Remember that children in rear-facing seats should never be placed in front of an active passenger air bag.› Use either lower anchors and tether (the LATCH system) or the seat belt and tether when installing forward-facing seats.› Keep children in the back seat until at least age 13. It’s the safest place to ride.› Remember to register your car seat or booster seat so you can be notified in the event of a safety recall.

Even if you think you're doing it right, are you sure? Your child's life could hang in the balance.

According to a 2017 paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, unintentional injury is the leading cause of pediatric death in the United States and motor-vehicle crashes are the most common cause of injury.

On average, across all states, researchers found that 20 percent of children involved in a fatal crash were unrestrained or inappropriately restrained at the time of the crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute report that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have child-restraint laws on the books, though there is "considerable variation" among the laws based on the child's age, height, weight and whether the vehicle has frontal airbags. And although deaths of children younger than 13 in motor-vehicle crashes have declined since 1975, crashes still cause one of every four unintentional injury deaths, according to IIHS-HLDI statistics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 723 children ages 12 and younger died as occupants in motor-vehicle crashes in 2016 and more than 128,000 were injured. Of those, 35 percent were not buckled up. One CDC study found that, in one year, more than 618,000 children from newborns to age 12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat, booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.

During Child Passenger Safety Week, certified child passenger safety instructors across the country are offering their expertise to make sure child car seats are properly installed.

"It is very important to have your seat inspected," says Ed Weaver, a law-enforcement liaison for the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety and a nationally certified child passenger safety instructor. "Make sure that you properly installed it and it is installed as safe as can be in your car."

In Georgia, health departments, sheriff's offices and Safe Kids chapters will provide free safety events and car-seat checks, according to a news release. For a county-by-county list of car-seat fitting stations, visit

Tennessee also has fitting stations throughout the state. Locally, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office provides weekly checkpoints at various locations through its Safe Journey program. Not only are these services provided for free, but Safe Journey staff also help train other law enforcement agencies and organizations to be certified child safety seat technicians.

Local checkpoints

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office’s Safe Journey program provides free car-seat checks routinely on the following days and times:› First Tuesdays: 2-4 p.m. at Chuck E. Cheese, 22 Northgate Park› Second Tuesdays: Noon-2 p.m. at the old Kmart, 4801 Highway 58› Third Tuesdays: Noon-2 p.m. at AAA Auto Club South, 2111 Gunbarrel Road› Fourth Tuesdays: Noon-2 p.m. at Walgreens, 600 N. Market St.› For more information, contact the Safe Journey program, 8395 North Hickory Valley Road, at 423-893-3503, ext. 3.

"Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep your child safe," says Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond. "Cars seats matter, and having the right car seat installed and used correctly is critical."

Safe and Sound staff at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital at Erlanger also provide car-seat checks year-round from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday and 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday. No appointment is necessary during nice weather, but safety educator Cait Sheppard recommends calling ahead during the winter to make sure someone is outside.

Drivers can come to the office, a small trailer, in Lot 2 of the Erlanger parking system, says Sheppard. She suggests bringing the child along too, so that staff can make sure the child has a good fit in the seat.

Safe and Sound gives about 300 car seats a year to people who need one. The only requirement is that the family has TennCare.

Sheppard says she also will be doing car-seat checks this week at a day care in Grundy County, which does not have a designated fitting station. She says the day care requested that she come.

Research shows that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent with infants and 54 percent with toddlers in passenger vehicles.

"It is our job as parents and caregivers to make sure our precious cargo is as safe and secure as possible while we're behind the wheel," says Robert Hydrick, communications manager for the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "Even if you think your child's car seat is installed correctly, use Child Passenger Safety Week to get it double-checked by a certified child passenger safety technician."

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.

State requirements

Tennessee* Children under 1 year of age, or any child, weighing 20 pounds or less, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in a rear-facing position in a rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer’s instructions. (Note: If the child safety seat has a higher rear-facing weight rating, usually 30 or 35 pounds, it may be continued to be used in a rear-facing position so long as the child’s weight permits.)* Children ages 1-3, and weighing more than 20 pounds, must be secured in a child safety seat in a forward-facing position in the rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.* Children ages 4-8, and measuring less than 4 feet 9 inches in height, must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat system in the rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer’s instructions. (Note: If the child is not between 4 and 8 but is less than 4-feet-9 in height, he/she must still use a seat-belt system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.)* Children ages 9-12, or any child through 12, measuring 4 feet 9 inches or more in height, must be secured in a seat-belt system. It is recommended that any such child be placed in the rear seat, if available. (Note: If the child is not between 9 and 12, but is 4-feet-9 or more in height, he/she must still use a seat-belt system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.)* Children ages 13-15 must be secured by using a passenger restraint system, including safety belts, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.Source:* All children under age 8 whose height is less than 57 inches must ride in the backseat of a car. A child is safer in the back and farthest away from the force of an airbag.* Children under age 8 are required to be in either a car seat or a booster seat suitable for their age and height.* If there is not a back seat in the vehicle (such as in a truck) or if other restrained children are in the back seat, Georgia law permits a child under age 8 to sit in front if restrained in the proper car seat or booster and the child weighs at least 40 pounds.Source: