In order for a child safety seat to do its job, it must be properly installed. It sounds simple in theory, yet many seats are not installed correctly.
Earlier this fall at New York state-run safety check, it was discovered that only 112 out of 931 car seats were installed correctly.
Findings like this underscore why it’s well worth your time to review a few tips to make sure you’re using a child safety seat the right way.
Installing an infant car seat
It’s always a good idea to read the manual that came with your particular child safety seat. That’s because every model of car seat is different, and there are certain nuances you will discover only by reading the manual.
As you place the car seat in your vehicle, remember that child safety seats are required to be rear-facing for the first two years of a child’s life. Experts advise you to keep your child rear-facing until they reach or exceed the height or weight limits outlined in the owner’s manual. This is usually around age four.
When installing the seat, place it firmly against the back of the vehicle’s seat and secure it with the seatbelts as outlined in your owner’s manual. When you do this, make sure the belts are drawn tight and that none of them are twisted. The entire seat should not be able to move more than an inch.
This is also the perfect time to make sure the seat is set at the appropriate recline angle. Many seats will include easy adjusters and recommended recline angles. You should be able to find both of these in your owner’s manual.
If the seat comes with a base, make sure the carrier handle has been moved out of the way so you can properly install the seat.
Booster seat installation
When your child outgrows his or her car seat and it’s time to move on to a booster seat, it’s important to have your child sit in the booster seat before it’s secured. Once your child is comfortable, pull the seat belt across their body so that it fits snugly over their thighs, not their stomach. The shoulder belt should rest across your child’s chest and be tight enough so they cannot slip their neck beneath it. Periodically check the belt for tightness, as it can loosen over time.
We’ve come a long way in protecting kids traveling in cars. Knowing which seat your child needs and how to install it is important—and potentially lifesaving—information.