Are you getting the most out of your child’s car seat?

Three out of four children's car seats are being used improperly in the United States, and that means most kids are not as safe as they could be when riding in the car.

According to a report released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, child safety restraint systems like booster seats and child seats are used correctly only 25 percent of the time. As a result, when traffic accidents occur, the risk of injury or death for most children is higher than it needs to be. Iowa officials are working on improving these numbers by educating the public about proper car seat use.

Common child seat errors

Child safety seats are notoriously confusing, and as a result it is not always obvious when they are being used incorrectly. Examples of some common types of misuse include:

  • The harness straps are not tight enough
  • The harness clips are too low or too high
  • The seat is not securely anchored to the vehicle
  • The restraint system is the wrong type for the child's age and weight
  • The restraint system for an infant is facing forward instead of backward
  • The child is seated in the safety seat but not buckled in

In order to be considered in compliance with Iowa's child seat law, children must not only be secured in an appropriate safety restraint system, but the system must be used properly in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Iowa child car seat law

Although there are many similarities among them, each state has its own laws regarding car seats for children. Iowa's child car seat law provides that:

  • Infants less than one year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must use a rear-facing restraint system
  • Children must use a booster seat or a safety seat until the age of six
  • Children must use a child restraint system or seat belt until the age of 11
  • All vehicle occupants under the age of 18 must use a seat belt

Iowa's child restraint law is a primary enforcement law, which means that police can conduct traffic stops and issue citations specifically for child seat and safety belt violations. People who are ticketed for child seat violations in Iowa can face fines and other costs totaling $195 or more. If an unrestrained child is age 13 or younger, police will issue a ticket to the driver of the vehicle. Unrestrained children between the ages of 14 and 17 can be ticketed directly.

When can a child begin using an adult seat belt?

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, children should continue using a booster seat or child safety seat until they are big enough to sit with their back and buttocks against the seat back and their knees bent at the edge of the seat. When using an adult seat belt, it must be positioned snugly against the child's lap at the hips and across the center of his or her chest.

Talk to a lawyer when a child is hurt in a crash

Despite the best efforts of parents and caregivers to keep children safe, the unfortunate truth is that these efforts can only go so far - especially when other drivers fail to do their part. If your child has been hurt in a crash, be sure to talk with a personal injury lawyer to learn about the options that are available to help protect his or her long term interests.