May 1, 2011

We’re concluding our discussion from our last post about a new survey. The subject is car seats, or child restraint systems. This can be a frustrating subject, because, even if we know that car seats save kids’ lives, we also know that many kids in Oregon and around the country aren’t in an appropriate car seat or aren’t bucked in correctly. The result is an unnecessary number of injuries and deaths in truck or car accidents every year.

The study shows that parents and drivers need to be vigilant even if they know they’re using the child seat correctly. Children, it turns out, can unbuckle themselves — especially younger children (age 3 and under). Fortunately, they are more likely to unbuckle the chest clip, the less important part of the restraint system. The lower buckle keeps the child in the seat, providing more protection than the chest clip.

Consumer Reports conducts its own evaluations of child car seats, but they admitted they didn’t look at how easy they were to unbuckle. Rather, they were looking at how difficult they are.

The organization models its tests after national safety standards. For car seats, there are standards for minimum and maximum release forces for the lower buckle, but there are no minimum release forces for the chest clip.

The unbuckled chest clip, according to Consumer Reports, is most dangerous when the harness is also loose. The loose harness is a common mistake in child restraints. The combination of the two allows a child to crawl out of the seat altogether.

Survey respondents said they react to an unbuckled child in much the same way. The driver pulls the car over and stops. Then comes the ultimatum: Young lady (or Young man), this car isn’t going anywhere until you buckle that up and stay buckled!

Experts agree that reinforcing the importance of buckling is important from an early age. As children grow, they develop more strength and better fine motor skills — and a better ability to free themselves from their car seats.

Source:, “Little Houdinis: Study finds young kids can free themselves from car seat restraints,” Liza Barth and Jennifer Stockburger, 05/03/2011


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