Child Safety Seat Tips
Seventy-five percent of all child safety seats are installed incorrectly! Are you the one in four who knows the right way? Use VroomGirls’ 10 simple steps to install your child’s car seat correctly.
By Petrina Gentile
These tips are easy to follow on your own. But if you want added peace of mind, attend a car seat safety clinic in your area. To find one, look here. Or check out this buying guide for a 2017 list of five budget-friendly convertible car seats
1. READ THE MANUAL
Sounds obvious, but most people scoff at it. You really should make an exception in this case. Read both your vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manual from the manufacturer. Check the instructions for the proper installation as well as other important information such as the weight and height limits for the seat.
2. BORROWED CAR SEATS
Be cautious with borrowed car seats. If you borrow from a friend, check the seat carefully, and ask if its been in the car during an accident. Make sure it has all instructions and hardware, it has no discolored stress marks or cracks, the harness is not worn or torn, and it has a properly working buckle and latch. Also, look for the sticker from the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) or the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS).
3. ANCHOR THE CAR SEAT
Then, properly thread the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS) through the child safety seat, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Cars manufactured after September 1, 2002 are equipped with UAS and lower anchorage bars which provide another option for securing the child safety seat in the car.
4. CHOOSE AN AGE-APPROPRIATE SEAT
Car seats are made to fit children at specific ages and heights. If an infant weighs less than 20 lbs, he or she should always travel in a rear-facing car seat. Toddlers who weigh between 20-40 lbs and are about one-year-old should ride in a forward-facing seat. Pre-school kids weighing 20 lbs – 80 lbs, and those who are shorter than 4 ¾ feet, should use a booster seat until the age of 8. And remember, children under age 13 should never ride in the front passenger seat – they’re always safest in the backseat. If a front seat airbag deploys it could cause serious injury.
5. APPLY PRESSURE
Kneel on the child safety seat to push it into the vehicle’s seat. Use muscle power to tighten the seat belt or UAS. Make sure the base of the car seat is tight, too. Grab the seat and shake it side to side. Don’t be gentle – use serious force because you want to make sure it doesn’t move in an accident. It shouldn’t sway more than an inch from left to right.
7. AVOID “DUMPSTER SPECIALS”
Never use a car seat if it has been in a collision. “It’s a dumpster special,” says John Kelcher, Auxiliary Constable and Child-Seat Restraint Instructor with the Ontario, Canada Provincial Police. “We do not recommend you use another person’s car seat. You don’t know what the child has done in the seat and you don’t know if it has been in collision.” So invest the cash in buying a new car seat.
8. TIGHTEN THE STRAPS
Put the child in the car seat and tighten the straps. Check the tension on all straps – they should be tight enough so you can only fit one finger between the child and the straps. Even if your child whines don’t give in and loosen the straps – the result could be deadly in a collision. All straps should lie flat against the child’s body and the chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
9. TOSS OLD CAR SEATS
Never use a car seat that’s more than 7-years-old. You can double check the manufacturer date of your car seat – it’s printed right on the seat. If it’s older than 7 years, dump it. Don’t use it. Be sure to look up recalls regularly. You can contact the manufacturer or visit the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/childseat.cfm. In Canada, you can visit Transport Canada’s website at www.tc.gc.ca
10. SECURE LOOSE OBJECTS IN YOUR CAR
Check for flying objects in your vehicle – even a bottle of windshield wiper fluid or an umbrella could become a projectile and potentially deadly in a crash. Make sure all loose objects are securely stored in your car. It’s a simple, often overlooked step that can prevent serious injury in a crash.