I am by no means a car seat safety expert. Really I am just a mom who has done her research. And even though I am not an expert, I will be the first to tell you when I don’t think something is right with your car seat. No, I am not going to be snooping through your vehicle. But if I see a photo with your child in a car seat, in the vehicle, and it is not correct, I am not going to be afraid to speak up. Or if we are in the parking lot together and I see your child incorrectly sitting in a car seat, I am going to say something.
Because your child’s safety is important to me. I would feel guilty if you drove off and something terrible happened to that child because I didn’t speak up.
Don’t take it personal. Learn how to speak up to other’s too. Let’s help parents out and be car seat safety advocates!
According to Team Educators for Child Safety (TECHS) in Pennsylvania, 9 out of 10 car seats are improperly installed. I didn’t do further research outside of my state, but I bet this is pretty accurate across the country. Which is sad.
Do you know how many times I have heard from parents that they just “didn’t know” that something with their car seat was right or wrong? That is why I am here today to give you the rundown of the basics of car seat safety and to point you in the right direction to get assistance with installation.
Know Your State Laws
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have laws requiring children to be restrained while riding in cars. Some states now require kids to ride in appropriate car seats or booster seats until 9 years old. Here in Pennsylvania, we just had a new law come into effect that says children must be rear-facing in their car seat until age 2. This infographic below is a good representation of how to see which car seat may be best for you child. But, like I said, laws vary by state so please check with your state laws.
Do Your Homework
There are so many research options out there to figure out which car seat is best for your child. Take your time when purchasing your first car seat for your newborn. Talk with your friends, family, co-workers and even people you see with children about their car seats. Want to know what car seats I have owned for my children so far? (affiliate links)
Check out car seats online but then physically go to the store and get your hands on the car seats you liked to learn how they work. ASK QUESTIONS and BE INFORMED!
Once you find the seat that is perfect for your child, read your car seat’s manual from front to back. It will tell you the minimum and maximum height and weight restrictions. Notice age is not listed there. Children’s heights and weighs can differ greatly at any age. My daughter is really tall for her age and has always been in the 100th percentile for both height and weight. My son, well, he was obviously teeny tiny when he was born, but now he sticks to about the 50th percentile. My daughter met car seat MAXIMUMS before she was a specific age. And I emphasize maximum because you should stick to those rather than the minimum. Why waste your money on a car seat when you don’t use it for its extended use period?
Get Your Car Seat Inspected and Installed Properly
Certified technicians will inspect your child car seat, in most cases, free of charge – and show you how to correctly install and use it. Many police stations and fire departments have events that open their doors to the community to get your car seats looked at.
The kids and I took a trip to our local police station and had our car seats checked out. You can find your nearest location by checking out this website.
It was very easy to make an appointment to have this done. I just pulled up to the front of the police station and the Police Sergeant came right outside to my car. He did a very thorough, hands-on, car seat inspection that took no longer than 15 minutes. Here is what he checked for:
- Since my kids were still in their car seat when we got there, Sgt. Kramer inspected how they were fastened into their car seat. I got an A+ on this! The only thing he said was that Cam’s belt could’ve been a little tighter, but it was great. To test to see if your 5-point harness is tight enough on your child, do the pinch test of the seat belt. If you can pinch in the seat belt between your fingers when you think it is tight on your child, then it is not tight enough.
- The kids go out of the car and Sgt. Kramer took the car seats out, checked their expiration dates, the make and model and inspected the belts. He wrote down everything about my car seat and did a double check to make sure there weren’t any recalls on either of my car seats.
- He then put my car seats back into my car and showed me a couple of tricks to get the belts even tighter. He said that the person installing the seat should literally be in the car, pushing down on the car seat (like he is doing in the picture below) to make sure the belts are as tight as they can go.
A Few More Tips
Car seats are only as effective as they can be when they are used which is why it is important to make sure they are properly installed. Here are a couple other things for you to remember:
- Child safety seats, safety belts and air bags should be considered “one-time use” items. After a crash they should be replaced.
- Child safety seats only work when they are properly secured to the vehicle with the safety belt of LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Once your child hits a certain weight, the LATCH system should not be used anymore. Please refer to your car seat manual for specifics.
- For older children who use the vehicle’s seat belt, it should fit low and tight across the upper thighs or low on the hips. The shoulder belt should cross the collarbone and center of the chest. It can touch the neck, but should not cross the throat.