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Study: Most Parents Not Using Car Seats Correctly

If you own a car, chances are you aren’t properly restraining your child.

Car safety guidelines have evolved over the years, often rapidly, and as a result the vast majority of parents are not adhering to the latest regulations, a new study has found.

A shocking 97 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 3 who were restrained at all were not sitting in a proper, rear-facing car seat, according to the study, conducted out of the University of Michigan.

Plus: New Rear-Facing Car Seat Guidelines Explained

And 90 percent of 8- to 10-year-olds were not properly restrained in a booster or car seat. Researchers at the university followed 22,000 children and compared their observations with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for child passenger safety.

The latest AAP recommendations stipulate that:

  • Children under the age of 2 should sit in rear-facing seats unless they exceed the height or weight limit for their seat
  • Children older than 2 who exceed the height or weight limit for a rear-facing seat should sit in front-facing seats with harnesses until their weight and height exceed the seat’s capacity
  • Children under 57 inches tall (the height of an average 11-year-old) should ride in a booster seat
  • Kids shouldn’t sit in the front seat at all until they turn 13

Sound confusing? It can be, especially since laws vary in strictness from state to state. “The recommendations are confusing and have gone through a lot of changes,” said the study’s author, Dr. Michelle Macy of the CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.

Plus: Your Rear-Facing Car Seat Questions, Answered

But if the AAP’s guidelines strike you as overly cautious, consider this: car crashes are the leading cause of death for children older than 3 in the US. More than 40,000 children end up in the emergency room every year as a result of car crashes. Researchers say those numbers could be reduced if the AAP guidelines were followed.

Of course, a dedicated adherence to safety guidelines often flies out the window when parents are under a time crunch – or if the trip is just a quick one to the market for milk. So we want to know, what’s your take on the study? Were you aware of the AAP’s latest child safety guidelines? Now that you are, will you change your driving habits? Leave a comment.