GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - We put our children in car seats to keep them safe in case of an accident. But in many cases, kids aren’t as protected as they could be because the seats aren’t installed properly.
It’s a common oversight that can have deadly consequences.
Meagan Graves and Jennifer Benson will do anything to keep their kids out of harm’s way.
That’s why when it comes time to hit the road their kids are placed securely in a car seat. Or are they?
In Colorado, 90 percent of child restraints checked need to be corrected in some way.
Graves and Benson have never had their car seats professionally checked, so 11 News invited them to join us at the Mesa County Health Department for a comprehensive inspection by Julie Baker, a certified car seat technician.
Both moms went into it a little uncertain.
Benson says, "You're never 100 percent sure that the seat belt is tight enough that in case you are in an accident that it would hold and be secure for your child. So, yea, I’m a little nervous.”
Graves says, "I'm hoping I've installed them correctly, but I'm not certain that I have, so I'm curious to find out if I've done the appropriate measures.”
We started with Benson’s to make sure two-year-old Hope is safe and secure.
Right away Baker finds a problem, a locking clip that isn’t needed because the seat belt locks on its own.
"This is actually not where we put this, but that's okay because it's good that we're finding these things out,” she says.
And it didn’t take long to find another issue. "So right now the seat isn't moving either and I'm wondering why because I've already unhooked the safety belt,” Baker says.
The reason it wasn’t moving is because Benson was using both the seat belt system and the latch system to secure the seat.
Baker says, "If you're using the latch system you don't need to use the seat belt."
To Benson’s surprise what she thought was making her daughter safer was actually putting her more at risk.
Baker says, "If it's too secure in there a lot of the impact from the crash will actually go into your child rather than the seat.”
Baker went to on check the expiration date. "2014, so you can use this up until that point.”
She also checked the recall list. "It's not on the recall list, so that's good.”
She also made sure Hope was strapped securely in the seat.
After everything was checked out for Benson it was time to make sure 14-month-old Sam was riding safely in Graves’ vehicle.
Baker says, "She did have it properly installed.”
Everything checked out with the seat installation, but Baker did find one error she sees a lot.
The harness straps securing Sam in the seat were too loose.
In the end, the corrections that were made for both the Benson and Graves turned out to be among the most common errors the Health Department sees.
But these two moms left with knowledge that turned their uncertainty into relief.
Benson says, “It would have been horrible to find out the hard way, in an accident that it was more harmful to her. So I'm really glad to have it checked and to know.”
Graves says, "This is one, one thing I can have control over in my children's lives. That they are safe in my vehicle, as safe as I can make them.”
Here’s a look at the three most common errors.
One, harness straps are too loose. Only one finger should be able to fit between the strap and the child’s collarbone.
Two, the seat is too loose in the vehicle. When used correctly the seat should only be able to move one inch to the left or right.
Third, the clip that attaches both harness straps are too low. It should be at the armpit level on the child.
The best thing to do is get your seat professionally checked.
An inspection only takes about 20 minutes and could prevent serious injury and even death.
For more information, contact the Mesa County Health Department at 254-4112. Leave a message and they’ll get back to you.