Is Your Car Seat Installed Correctly?
1. SelectionCar seats come in a wide variety of brands, types, styles, etc - making the task of choosing a car seat daunting for many parents. Here at the Baby Cubby our staff is well educated and can help you with this decision but here are some things to consider:
- Does the car seat have appropriate weight and height limits for my child for the time frame that I want to use it?
- Will this car seat fit in my car and in the location I want it?
- Does this seat have adequate impact protection?
Remember: all seats are not created equally! I consider car seats our children's life insurance policy, and typically the more you spend the more safety features it has. This being said, even the safest carseat installed incorrectly will leave your child at risk. My favorite car seats? For infants I love the UPPAbaby Mesa. It has great safety ratings, and my favorite convertible seat is the Britax Clicktight Advocate. They both have great safety features, are super easy to install, and look sleek in the process.
For many parents, your first car seat will be an infant seat. However, you may buy a convertible seat and use it from infancy until your child grows out of the weight and height requirements.
Pictured: Chicco Key Fit 30 and Chicco Nextfit Zip
The age at which to turn your child to face forward in a car has become a huge debate issue recently. This is because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep your child rear-facing until they are 2 years old AND 20 lbs, but many do not realize that this recommendation is a MINIMUM. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2 year old children are 5 times less likely to die in a car accident if they are rear-facing versus forward-facing. In fact, the safest practice is to keep your child rear-facing until they reach the rear-facing height and weight capacities for their car seat - this may mean that they are 4 years old before you face them forward, and that is just fine!
Two huge myths that you will hear from some parents is that children's legs will be injured severely if they are touching the back of the seat or that the child will be extremely uncomfortable - but like I said, it is a complete myth. Children will often sit cross legged or with their feet up against the seat, whichever is more comfortable for them. In the case of a car accident and possible injury you have to realize something: if you are moving in a forward direction and you suddenly come to a stop, your body continues to move in a forward direction. So, if a child is rear-facing with their legs up against the seat, your child's body will actually press further into their car seat, not the seat their feet are touching. If anything, it will make more room for your child's lets. Furthermore, even if they were to be injured, a broken leg is much easier fixed than a broken neck.
Parents sometimes fear that once their child’s feet are against the back of the seat then their legs will be in danger of getting injured. However, it is up to 5 times safer for a child to sit rear facing until 4 years old, even with their legs up against the seat. Pictured: Britax Clicktight – Splash
3.LocationMany of you may know that the safest location for one child in your car is the middle back seat. This position puts your child furthest from impact in any direction. But, what if you have more than one child in your car? Here are some things to consider when deciding where to position each child's car seat:
- Smaller children need more support and are more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident, so you may want to place them toward the center of the car.
- Children under the age of 13 should never ride in the front seat of a car, except in an emergency.
- The second safest place for a car seat is directly behind the driver. In the event of an accident, you as the driver are more likely to take action to protect yourself (instinctive reflexes are cool like that). So, your side of the car is going to tend to be in less danger than the passenger side.
- Consider car seats that are known to be able to fit with other car seats next to them, like the Britax line of car seats.
A properly installed car seat will not move more than 1 inch side to side or forward and backward when shaken near the belt route.
It is very important that you properly install the seat in your car. Read the owners manual for more specific guidelines. You can install your car seat using the car's seat belt or the LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) System. Whichever method you use make sure that the seat is "locked" in. As a side note, Chicco car seats (specifically the Keyfit30 and the Nextfit Zip) are the #1 Consumer Report rated car seats, largely due to their ease of install.
You can lock the car seat into position with the locking mechanism in the seat belt retractor, LATCH system or the Lock-Off on the car seat. Whichever system you use, the car seat should not more more than an inch both side to side or front to back. When installing you also want to check the level of the car seat. Many car seats are equipped with a level, but if it is not then make sure your child is positioned at 30-45° for a rear-facing child. If your child is forward-facing make sure to attach your rear tether to the Tether Anchor (TA) in your car, this is critical to prevent/decrease head and spine injuries.
If your child is not harnessed into the seat then I think its safe to say your seat will NOT protect your child! When harnessing them in, you want to harness your child in snugly.
Some ways to test this are to:
- Try to pinch the harness by the chest vertically. If you can pinch the webbing then it is too loose.
- Ensure the chest clip is positioned in the "tickle zone" or armpit to armpit.
- Check the height of the shoulder straps. If your child is rear-facing you want the shoulder straps to be at shoulder height or within an inch below the shoulders. If they are forward-facing position the straps at shoulder level or within an inch above the shoulders.
From right to left:
1. If you are able to pinch the harness at all then it is too loose! Your child's harness should always be taught. A good test is if you can fit 1 finger flat against their chest comfortably between the chest clip and the child.
2. Rear-facing children should always have the harness at or no more than 1" below their shoulder.
3. The chest clip should always be positioned between the child's armpits or in the "ticklezone."
We know this is a lot of information and some of it can be confusing. If you have any questions about installing your car seat you are welcome to call in to our store at 801-770-0584 and talk to our CPS Certified Technician, Katie! Or even better, if you have time, schedule an appointment to meet with Katie and she can go over all of this information in person and personally check all of your car seats. Sometimes these roads can be scary so please drive safe and make sure you have taken the time to make sure you kids are safe too.