Nearly 80% of Colorado parents and caregivers are not using their child’s car seat correctly

News Release

July 1, 2024 - With relaxed schedules and different caregivers in charge, summer poses increased risks for car seat misuse

Casi el 80 % de padres y cuidadores en Colorado no usan las sillas infantiles de seguridad correctamente en español

Statewide — Summer is in full swing, and with school out and schedules relaxed, many families rely on the help of babysitters, grandparents or other caregivers to watch their children. With a different caregiver at the wheel, the risk increases that car seats or booster seats may not be used or installed correctly, putting kids at risk in the event of a crash.

Last year in Colorado, 78% of car seats inspected by child passenger safety technicians were not being used correctly or were not installed properly, according to the Child Passenger Safety Board’s National Digital Car Seat Check Form (NDCF) database. This number is an increase from 2022, when Colorado’s car seat misuse rate was just under 70%.

The most common type of car seat misuse in Colorado last year was the harness — either being too loose, wrong placement of the harness slots or incorrect routing of the crotch buckle/slot. Other factors leading to misuse include moving a child out of a booster seat too soon and using a car seat that is not correctly fitted to the child’s height, weight and physical development.

According to the NDCF database, children aged 1 and under riding in rear-facing only car seats (infant bucket seats) had the highest misuse rate of any age group and type of car seat.

“Car seats are not necessarily intuitive, and they are all different, which is why it’s so important to read the manufacturer’s manual, even if you think you’ve got it figured out,” said Trooper Kent Trimbach of the Colorado State Patrol and program coordinator for Car Seats Colorado. “It’s your responsibility to equip yourself with the knowledge and resources to keep your children safe on the road and relay that information to any caregivers who transport your child.”

In addition to different caregivers, summer activities also often involve moving car seats between different vehicles. Each transfer increases the chance of installation errors. Double check after every transfer to confirm the car seat has been installed correctly and is secure.

“Parents are juggling more than ever before, and during summer when kids are out of school and parents are still working, it can get incredibly busy,” said Darrell Lingk, director of the Highway Safety Office at CDOT. “This constant juggling of responsibilities can sometimes lead to forgetfulness when it comes to car seat safety. We want to remind families to make car seat safety a priority, even amid the hustle and bustle of summer activities.”

Car Seats Colorado offers the following tips to help parents and caregivers keep children safe in the car:

  • Ensure all caregivers, including grandparents, nannies, babysitters and friends, are trained on the proper use and installation of your car seat(s). Provide them with a simple checklist or reference guide.
  • Always refer to the car seat manufacturer’s manual and vehicle owner’s manual for car seat installation instructions.
  • Make sure your child is in the correct car seat for his or her size, age and development.
  • Periodically check for any recalls on your car seat or booster seat.
  • Double check car seat installation after transferring from one vehicle to another.
  • Get a free car seat check. Click here to find a location near you.

“Our little ones rely on us to keep them safe,” said Trooper Trimbach. “They can't protect themselves — it falls upon parents and caregivers to ensure that they are properly secured when riding in a vehicle.”

If you are unable to afford a car seat for your child(ren), WeeCycle, Children’s Hospital Colorado and SafeKids Colorado Springs have programs through which families are able to get a free or low-cost car seat. Visit their websites for more information.