Are You Putting Your Child At Risk in a Car Seat?

Three simple steps to catch up on the latest car seat rules and tips.

— -- intro: Sept. 13-19 was National Child Passenger Safety Week —- a.k.a Car Seat Week —- and I missed it. But you know what? I’m going to write about it anyway. Why? Because EVERY week should be car seat safety week.

I’ll start with my own personal crusade: people should keep their kids in a full-fledged car seat for far longer. You know, the kind with a 5-point harness and the LATCH-system securing it to the car. The kind my 8-year-old’s friends call a “baby seat.” As in, “Kelsea, why do you still ride in a baby seat?” Yes, our girl rode in a giant version of a “baby seat” (but one designed for kids her size) until just four months ago and it saved her life when we crashed on the interstate a couple of years ago.

I only knew to do this because of another family that was not so lucky. This brave family shared their story with me on ABC News' "Good Morning America." Their son, riding in just an unattached booster seat, slid under the seatbelt during a collision, was thrown from the vehicle and killed.

So that’s my advice. Here’s the group Safe Kids Worldwide’s 3-point advice:

quicklist: title: Check it. text: Go online to NHTSA’s car seat recall site to see if a car seat you already own is considered unsafe. They are only recalled if the defect is considered life threatening. If yours is on the list, drive to the store —- without your kid in the car —- and buy a new one. According to Consumer Reports, there are plenty of budget friendly car seats that perform admirably.

quicklist: title: Register it. text: When you buy a new car seat, actually fill out that annoying post card or go online and use the special car seat registration portal. I used to worry this would subject me to all sorts of junk mail. Authorities assure me you will ONLY hear from the manufacturer in the event of a recall.

quicklist: title: Install it. text: Install it properly, that is. Unfortunately car seats continue to be a bear to wedge into our automobiles in just the right way to maximize their effectiveness. Get some pros to help you. They’re standing by at fire stations and children’s hospitals all over the country to help you. And you can find a listing through Safe Kids at anytime.

Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.