Once a child has been strapped into a child seat, it’s easy to assume that he or she is safe. But according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), three out of every four car seats aren’t correctly used.
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death in children between the ages of one and 13, further highlighting the importance that the car seat is installed and used correctly. It could reduce the severity of injuries or may even prevent them in a car accident.
Tips for Installing a Child Car Seat
The first tip is to make sure the car seat isn’t able to be moved from front to back or side to side more than an inch. A loose seat is dangerous in an accident.
The second tip is to make sure the harness is snug. And when putting it through the slots, the harness should be above or even with the child’s shoulders (in a forward-facing seat), unless instructions indicate otherwise.
A third tip is to never use a car seat that has been recalled. This may seem obvious but it slips many parents’ minds to check. Recalls usually stem from defects, such as a latch that unexpectedly opens or faulty locks. It’s also important that anytime a seat has been involved in an accident, it is immediately replaced since it could have been damaged.
Tip number four is make sure the retainer clip (aka chest clip) sits at the child’s armpit level. It it’s too high or low, the straps could slip from the shoulders.
The fifth tip is keep children in an appropriate car seat until they have reached the maximum weight or height allowed for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated recommendations in 2010 recommend keeping children in rear-facing seats until reaching age two, for instance. The AAP also recommends keeping children in a booster seat until reaching 4'9" and the ages of eight to 12 years old.
Finally, to ensure the car seat is installed correctly, have it tested by a certified child passenger safety technician. Alternatively, take advantage of child safety workshops sometimes offered to assist parents.