Parents, especially new parents, tend to place a high priority on what can be done to keep their children safe. Safety gates: check. Latches on the lower cabinets: check. Medication up and away: check. Smoke alarms on every level of your home: check. Properly install car seat and buckle up on every ride: check.
But here is something frequently missed. Have you completed the registration card or gone online to register your car seat? If not, you're not alone.
Registering your car seat is the single best way for parents to learn about a recall that could affect the performance of their car seat. Filling in your name and address on the card takes less than a minute but it could make a big difference for the safety of your child. Lost the card? You can still register your seat by going to the manufacturer's website or safercars.gov/parents. Just have information on the make and model of the car seat handy. (You'll find it on the label of your seat.)
And while registration is important, we need parents to take action when a recall occurs. Some recalls are minor. It might mean replacing a label. Some are more serious, like replacing the harness buckle. Either way, make that repair. It will cost no more than a bit of your time to ensure that your child has a safer ride, every time.
Why is this so important? Last year, more than six million car seats were recalled by manufacturers. Yet fewer than half of those car seats received the necessary repair. Could your child be riding in one of those seats that hasn't been fixed? Check here to find out.
Recently I met Britney, who shared a story about her beloved one-year-old daughter, Dakota. Just before Dakota was born, Britney met with a certified car seat technician in Washington, D.C. to learn how to use and install her car seat properly. As Britney was about to leave, the technician reminded her to register the car seat with the manufacturer just in case there was a recall.
At first, Britney was reluctant. She was busy. She didn't see the need. After all, what were the chances there would be a recall? But then a voice inside reminded Britney that this was her baby and she should do everything she could to keep her safe.
So Britney removed the registration card from the car seat, filled it out with her name, address and e-mail, and placed in the mailbox - no postage necessary. The whole process took less than a minute and she didn't think about it again.
Two weeks after Dakota was born, Britney received an e-mail from the manufacturer about a recall. There were some concerns about the harness buckle. The manufacturer sent Britney another car seat, which she promptly installed, just as she was taught by the car seat technician.
A few months later, Britney was driving Dakota to a doctor's appointment and was hit from behind. Her first thought was of Dakota. Was she OK? When Britney turned around, she saw that Dakota was perfectly fine - safe and secure in her car seat.
"To this day, I'm grateful that I followed my gut and filled out that registration," Britney told me. "What if that the car seat didn't work like it was supposed to? I can't even imagine if something had happened to my baby."
Safe Kids and General Motors have teamed up to keep all kids safe when they're riding in cars and want to remind you that registering a car seat is an important safety step. For more information about our Buckle Up program, car seat recalls or how to find a car seat technician in your community, visit safekids.org.