Car Seat Installation Tips To Keep Your Child Safe
Everyone is concerned about safety, especially in the vehicle, but just how do you make sure you child is as safe as possible? Let’s explore several car seat installation tips as well as common mistakes many parents make to help you make sure your child is safe when it’s time to hit the road.
Car Seat Installation Tip #1
Proper safety starts with making sure you have the right type of seat for the age and weight of your child. Babies require rear-facing seats while older children (at least one-year-old and more than 20 pounds) can graduate to forward-facing seats and finally older children (between 40-80 pounds and up to 4’9” tall) can use booster seats. One thing to keep in mind is that five-point harnesses are recommended for all seats other than booster (though some booster seats now offer that option.)
Many parents move their children to forward facing or booster seats too young and at too low of a weight class. It is important that both age and weight conditions are met before you consider moving your child to a different type of seat.
Car Seat Installation Tip #2
Now that you have your seat picked out, make sure you read the manual that came with the child seat. Every seat is slightly different and the manufacturers instructions will tell you everything you need to know about the seat, as well as phone numbers to call if you have questions specific to it.
Car Seat Installation Tip #3
Make sure to place the child seat on the centre part of the backseat, the position many professionals recommend as the safest placement option, and secure it properly using a tether system. Tether systems have become common in newer vehicles and offer lower anchors and tethers that help keep child seats in place. Many automotive shops now offer to install anchors in older vehicles as well.
After this stage take the seat and try to move it by grasping near the base where the safety belt passes through, if it moves more than an inch to either side or forward, it needs to be tightened. Putting your weight in to the seat using your knee is an easy way to help tighten the belt properly.
Car Seat Installation Tip #4
Ensure that the seat is reclined at the proper angle, many seats provide indicators that tell you exactly how it should be placed for optimum safety. The angle of the car seat is important as most vehicle seats are built with adult comfort in mind and not child seat safety. Because babies airways are narrow and their necks not as strong as older kids, being in a position where their head could fall forward could result in their airway being blocked and make it impossible for the baby to breathe. If your seat doesn’t have an adjustable pedestal use a tightly rolled up towel or piece of a pool noodle to help prop up the part of the seat where your babies feet are.
Car Seat Installation Tip #5
Before you are ready to strap your child in make sure the straps are at the right level. Many seats have three levels; the two lower are for rear-facing configurations and the highest one is for forward-facing. Once you are ready to strap your child in, be aware of how tight the straps are and make sure they lay flat. Also make sure the retainer clip is across the breastbone so that the straps are less likely to slip off your child’s shoulders. With a five-point harness system you should be able to fit two fingers between the clip and the chest. If the harness is too loose your child is at risk of becoming dislodged from the seat in a collision.
Car Seat Installation Tip #6
While all these steps are important, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that using a recalled seat or one that has previously been in an accident is never okay. Recalls are in place for a reason, something as simple as a faulty buckle could result in horrible injuries or death. Any seat that has been in an accident has been compromised and should be destroyed.
Car Seat Installation Tip #7
If you are still concerned about child seat safety and have questions on whether you’ve installed your child seat properly, look in to a workshop or open house near you. Many companies, local emergency services and parenting groups have started offering car seat installation inspections.