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Federal officials ask parents to check child seats in vehicles

Monday - 9/17/2012, 2:12pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Federal leaders are urging parents to take another look at the seats their kids ride in and make sure they are set up correctly as Child Passenger Safety Week kicks off.

Nearly three out of every four child safety seats are not being used properly, according to David Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief.

"Even if you think you are doing it right, a little help never hurts," Strickland said at a Northwest D.C. playground Monday.

A new NHTSA survey found that 20 percent of parents and caregivers did not read the instructions about how to properly install these types of seats. Yet 90 percent felt confident or very confident that the seats were installed properly.

"That's way too big of a gap," said Strickland.

According to the NHTSA, the five most common mistakes made when using and installing child safety seats are as follows:

  1. Wrong harness slot used, positioning the harness straps that hold the child in the car seat either too low or too high

  2. Harness chest clip positioned over the abdomen, rather than the chest, or not used at all

  3. Loose car seat installation, allowing the restraint system to move more than two inches side-to-side or front-to-back - anything more than one inch is too much.

  4. Loose harness, giving more than two inches of total slack between the child and the harness strap - there should be no slack

  5. Seat belt placement was wrong, letting the lap belt rest over the stomach and/or shoulder belt on the child's neck or face

Federal safety leaders are asking all parents to do a quick check to make sure their child is properly protected.

Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization to prevent unexpected childhood injuries, is also hosting hundreds of child safety seat inspections across the country this week.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)