COLUMBIA, S.C. — With more traffic on the road as kids head back to school, the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) is stepping up efforts to make sure everyone is buckled up safely, including kids in car seats.
"Here’s your warning as the school season starts," said Trooper David Jones with South Carolina Highway Patrol. "When you come through those lines, if you see a trooper, know that we’re there for your safety. If you have a question or you need your car seat looked at, stop us and let us take a glance at it."
On Tuesday, a crash in Columbia killed a woman and injured two children. Officials say the two children survived because they were properly restrained in a car seat.
While most families put kids in car seats, new research shows more than half are not installed correctly. In fact, the latest research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 59% of car seats are not installed correctly.
"For the average child, the vehicle is the most dangerous place they go on a routine basis," Coordinator for the organization Safe Kids Kevin Poore said.
New research from Safe Kids Worldwide found that 64% of car seats are not installed using the top tether, which secures the top of a car seat to the vehicle seat. It also keeps a forward-facing car seat from pitching forward in crash or sudden stop.
"The most common mistake that I see on a regular basis is that parents don’t tighten the harness tight enough," Poore said.
Thankfully, there are some resources to help you make sure your car seat is installed correctly.
The Ultimate Car Seat Guide from Safe Kids Worldwide offers helpful information online on how to choose and use a car seat and when to move to another one. The guide features a basic installation guide. Find the guide in both English and Spanish at www.UltimateCarSeatGuide.org.
You can also take advantage of local Car Seat Checkup events when they are offered.
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Jennifer Black is a child passenger safety technician. She’s also a parent to five kids.
"With my oldest, there was just not a lot of resources so I made a lot of mistakes," she explained. "I just want parents to be able to have these resources readily available so that way we catch mistakes before we have any negative outcomes."
Prisma Health Midlands is another inspection site. Kenishia Golden-Smith is a pediatric injury prevention coordinator at Prisma Health Children's Hospital.
She said it's important to look at both the vehicle manual and the car seat manual for proper instructions.
This can help "to ensure that you're using either tethers or anchors based on your car," she said.
Another important tip, according to Golden-Smith, is to examine the car seat after it's installed to check if it moves.
"[It's important to make] sure that once the seat is installed, it moves no more than one inch when you push or tug on the seat, so that way you know it's secure and locked," she said.
If you're not sure, Jones encourages residents to stop by an inspection site or ask a highway patrol officer for help.
"Every year troopers are knocking on doors and going to hospitals where parents have lost a child due to a crash," Jones said. "We don’t want to knock on anymore doors. We don’t want to talk to any more parents."