Are You Installing Your Car Seat Properly?
Your child’s safety could be in jeopardy if the car seat is not installed correctly. You might think that anyone who can read an instruction manual and follow directions can install a car seat properly. In reality, though, it’s not that easy.
Did you know that 96 percent of all car seats are installed improperly?
In the U.S., car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over age 3, and more than 140,000 children go to the emergency rooms each year as a result of accidents where the car seat was not properly installed.
"The key to keeping kids safe is to make sure your child is in the right seat for their age and size and to make sure the seat is correctly installed in your vehicle," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
Mistakes Parents Make Installing Car Seats
- Shake the base. A securely fastened seat doesn't wobble, pivot, slide or tip. A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch side to side or front to back.
- Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check the car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child's shoulder. If your car seat is installed correctly, you should not be able to pinch any excess webbing.
- Rear-facing seats. These are recommended for infants and have a weight limit between 22 and 35 pounds. Why? Facing backward offers the best protection for a baby's head, neck, and spine.
- Convertible seats. These are recommended if your baby is heavier than 40 pounds and has reached the limits of his infant car seat. They can accommodate taller or heavier babies (up to 50 pounds) in the rear-facing position.
- Booster seats. These are recommended for children who are at least four years old and weigh at least 40 pounds. These seats position the car seat’s seat belt so the child can use it safely.
Investing in a quality car seat and properly installing it is one of the best things you can do to keep your infant safe when driving. When car seats are properly installed, injuries to children are potentially cut in half.
Tips for Successfully Installing a Car Seat
- Count on spending at least an hour carefully reviewing the directions.
- Don’t procrastinate. Install the seat several weeks before your baby is due, you don’t need the added stress.
- Once installed, have it inspected. Your local fire department either conducts checkpoints themselves or they can tell you where they are held.
- Perform weekly checks, to make sure the safety belt is still holding the carrier securely in place and that the level indicator says the seat is at a safe angle.