Many Child Car Seats Still Installed Incorrectly, According To AAA Survey

HAMILTON – Nearly three out of four child passenger safety seats are installed improperly, according to a AAA estimate. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system required in most vehicles and car seats for the past ten years hasn’t helped as much as it was hoped.

AAA’s recent survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), those certified to inspect and properly install car seats, found that nearly 3/4 of CPSTs surveyed observe parents misusing the LATCH system more than half of the time.

“While strides have been made to make car seats easier to use, the overwhelming majority of car seats are still not installed properly,” cautioned Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA reminds parents to protect their most precious cargo by having their car seat installations inspected by a professional.”

The top misuses reported by CPSTs in the AAA recent survey:

 1) Using LATCH in the rear-center seating position when not permitted by the vehicle manufacturer.

Safety experts have long promoted the rear-center seat as the safest seating position for children. However, in an IIHS study of 2010-11model year vehicles, only 7 of the 98 top-selling vehicles supported LATCH use in the rear-center seat. Many parents make the mistake of using the inner anchor for each outboard seat to install a car seat in the center seat using LATCH. If the vehicle does not support a LATCH installation in the rear-center seat, use a seat belt to secure the car seat, or move the car seat to an outboard seat. Be sure to always consult the vehicle owner’s manual before installing a car seat in any vehicle.

 2) Using both the seatbelt AND the LATCH system to install the car seat.

While parents may think using both the seat belt and the LATCH system will provide additional protection, the opposite may be true. In the event of a crash, belts are designed to expand and absorb crash forces. If both systems are used, the crash forces may be distributed improperly, resulting in injury or death. Unless both the vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s manual approve using both methods together, select either the seatbelt or the LATCH system.

3) Using the wrong belt path with the LATCH attachments to install the car seat.

Convertible car seats have belt paths for both rear-facing and forward-facing installations. When installing the car seat, consult the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to determine which belt path to use. Selecting the incorrect belt path will leave the seat improperly secured.

Proper installation of a car seat provides children with the best protection in a crash. Consulting an expert can be critical to ensuring that children are secured in the safest manner possible. Experts are available to help parents with their car seat installation by visiting your local AAA club, or calling 1-866-SEATCHECK (1-866-732-8243). For additional information on AAA’s child passenger safety resources for parents and caregivers, visit

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