Are You Using Your Child's Car Seat Correctly?

Posted by Chris Medine on Mar 5, 2014 1:16:00 PM

proper car seat installation

Parents will go to any length to keep their child safe and healthy.  Doctor appointments, holding hands in parking lots, and car seats are all part of making sure that our little ones are well taken care of.  Unfortunately, many of us may not be doing as well as we think.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that as many as 72 percent of child restraint systems are used improperly.  Because of this, as well as children who are unrestrained, motor vehicle accidents rank as the leading cause of death among American children.

Car seats are often large and come with many hooks, latches, and straps, making the process of installing them confusing and difficult.  Although you may feel certain that you can set up your child’s seat properly, it is always best to follow instructions and double check your work before getting on the road.  In addition to installation of the car seat, knowing where to place the seat within the vehicle, whether or not it should be rear-facing, and how to position the harness are all key to ensuring safety.  Here are some tips you should follow to maximize your child’s security while in your vehicle:

  • Follow Manufacturer Guidelines – Every car seat will come with an instruction manual for installation.  These will help you make sure that everything is properly in place and that no important steps have been overlooked.
  • Determine Ideal Seat Placement – Most car owner’s manuals will suggest the safest location to place your child’s car seat within the vehicle.  However, if this information is not provided, the center of the rear seat is typically ideal.  Research has shown that children in car seats have a 43 percent lower risk of injury during a crash when riding in the middle of the rear seat, as opposed to an outboard position.
  • Use Proper Positioning of Harness – The straps of your child’s car seat should fit them snuggly.  To ensure that they are not too loose, do a pinch test.  Once your child is strapped in, attempt to pinch the fabric of the straps between your fingers.  If you are able to do this, the straps are too loose.  Additionally, make sure that the harness clip is even with the armpits, and the top harness is in proper placement at shoulder level.  Car seats typically have three slots so that you can adjust the height level of the shoulder straps as your child grows.  It is important to make sure these are neither too high nor too low.
  • Do Not Switch to Forward-Facing Too Soon – Many parents mistakenly turn their child’s car seat around too soon.  Rear-facing is the safest riding position for infants, and they should remain that way until they are 18-months, or reach both the height and weight requirements for forward-facing as determined by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Ensure the Car Seat is Not Too Loose – Car seat inspectors report that the number one mistake parents make during installation is leaving the seat too loosely secured.  To determine if your car seat is installed tightly enough, grab it by the base and attempt to move it.  If you are able to shift the car seat by more than one inch to the left, right, or front, the restraining straps should be tightened.

Ensuring your child’s safety is a lifelong job.  Certainly the concern for keeping them well and out of harm’s way never goes away.  However, one of the most important aspects of their safety is often undertaken improperly.  Before you attempt to install or use your child’s car seat, take a few simple steps to determine that the important factors listed above are in order.  If you are ever unsure that the seat is ideally installed, you can always take your vehicle to any number of local inspection stations.  Just click here to find the one nearest you.

At Medine’s Collision Center, your safety is our number one priority.  We will make certain that your vehicle is properly repaired and roadworthy after any accident, but we want you to remember other safety factors as well.  For your family’s protection, we always recommend double checking your child’s car seat installation and using any available resources such as installation inspectors and owner’s manuals. 

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Topics: Vehicle Preparedness