66% of Colorado Caregivers Don’t Use Car Seats Correctly, New Data Shows

Certified car seat safety technician Karissa Zahner performs a car seat check in Golden

New data shows firsthand evidence that a majority of parents aren’t properly securing their children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts. The data was gathered from more than 81,027 car seat checks performed nationally by certified car seat safety technicians. Of the seat checks performed in Colorado, technicians noted a 65.5% misuse rate, worse than the national average of 60%.

To underscore the importance of car seat safety, CDOT and Colorado State Patrol are releasing a new series of videos that show the dramatic consequences if a child is unrestrained in a crash. The shocking videos use real crash test footage provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The videos, which will target parents across Colorado starting in September, can be found here and on CDOT’s YouTube channel.

Certified technicians in Colorado have performed 13,285 car seat checks since July 2018, and the state is a national leader in the number of car seat checks performed every year.

Car seat installation is complicated, and an official car seat check closely examines more than 35 factors. Common errors include using an expired seat, not correctly attaching the seat to the vehicle, improperly using the buckle, or improperly fitting the child to the seat. According to NHTSA data, in 2019, about 16.6% of children ages 4-7 were prematurely moved to seat belts, when they should have been riding in booster seats.

So far this year, 77 citations have been issued statewide to parents and caregivers for unrestrained children during CDOT’s Click It or Ticket enforcement periods.  Having your car seat installation checked is a quick, free, and important way to avoid fines, and more importantly, have peace of mind about your child’s safety.

“We know parents are doing their best and want to protect their children,” said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Tim Sutherland. “However, many small details make a big difference in keeping your child as safe as possible in a crash.” Sutherland is the Child Passenger Safety Program Coordinator for Car Seats Colorado, a joint partnership between the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol.

While not all of these issues can lead to catastrophic outcomes in a crash, some can. For example, if a harness strap is too loose, a child can be ejected from the seat in a collision or rollover.

So what can parents do to ensure they’re checking all the boxes and doing everything right? First, read car seat and vehicle owners manuals carefully every time you install a new seat. Second, find a car seat check station near you and undergo a comprehensive inspection.

“Parents are busy and car seats can be complicated. But because our kids’ lives are at stake we need to be sure car seats are properly installed and used,” said CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk. “So, parents and caregivers have to stay diligent. Moving seats from one car to another or adjusting the seat fit as the kids grow, there’s a lot to keep track of — but it’s worth taking the time to get it right.”

The new data is compiled by a partnership through the National Safety Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, AAA and other safety networks. Car Seats Colorado administers the collection of Colorado car seat inspection data and inputs them into the new dashboard.

There are 99 registered car seat inspection stations in Colorado, and 30 of them have a Spanish-speaking technician available. To find an inspection station, please visit codot.gov/safety/carseats/inspection-stations.

Car Seats Colorado is a joint effort of the Colorado State Patrol, CDOT, local car seat technicians, law enforcement, emergency services and other professionals who are dedicated to implementing child passenger safety programs and encouraging parents to take the necessary steps to protect their children when in vehicles. Learn more about how to keep children safe in vehicles and download informational resources at CarSeatsColorado.com.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s mission is to provide the best multi-modal transportation system that most effectively and safely moves people, goods and information. CDOT maintains more than 23,000 lane miles of highway, more than 3,400 bridges and 35 mountain passes. Our team of employees works tirelessly to reduce the rate and severity of crashes and improve the safety of all modes of transportation. CDOT leverages partnerships with a range of private and public organizations and operates Bustang, an interregional express bus service. Find more details at codot.gov.

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