By Jenny Cheek, Safety Advocate
Father’s Day has taken on new meaning in my home, as my husband, Mike, and I prepare to welcome our first child in late June. Becoming first time parents can feel overwhelming with all the important decisions that need to be made, but we assumed that at least one thing would be simple for us: the selection and installation of a child safety seat for our car. After all, I’ve worked in the traffic safety field for several years. Surely, I’d know just what to do when it came to choosing the best child safety seat for our daughter.
Like many things with first-time parenting, we had no idea what we were getting into. What seemed like a simple idea – choosing the safest seat for our child – was actually really confusing. There are various styles of child safety seats (infant seats, convertible seats, and booster seats) made by dozens of manufacturers, all with different features and prices. I wondered how we would make the best choice. We quickly learned that all seats sold in the United States must meet minimum safety standards, so anything available on the market will provide protection when properly installed and used. It’s most important to choose a seat that’s right for your child’s age and size, that fits in your vehicle, and that can be properly installed and used.
Once we made our choice of a seat, we were faced with what we thought would be the daunting task of installing it properly. It’s estimated that 73 percent of child safety seats are not installed or used correctly, and incorrectly installed or improperly used seats don’t provide the intended protection in the event of a crash. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death to children by as much as 71 percent. We weren’t willing to take a risk with our child’s safety, so we sought help getting our seat installed.
Enter NTSB Human Performance Investigator Dennis Collins. Not only is Dennis a seasoned investigator in our Highway Safety division, he’s also a Child Passenger Safety technician and trainer. He’s been professionally trained on how to install all varieties of seats in just about any type of passenger vehicle.* Perhaps even more importantly, Dennis is a father of five, so he understood our desire to have the seat properly installed. Dennis walked us through the process of installing the seat and demonstrated how to use all its features. Thanks to Dennis, Mike and I both feel confident that we can ensure that the seat stays properly installed and use it so we get the maximum safety benefit for our child.
With our new child safety seat properly installed, there’s just one thing left: waiting for our baby to make her arrival.