As parents, we all want to do everything we can to keep our children safe. Therefore, researching car safety seats usually tops our priority list. However, once that seat is chosen, many parents fail to actually install it properly, resulting in poor protection for children. In fact, according to SeatCheck.org, while 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are correctly installed, research shows that seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained.
To ensure your child’s safety seat is properly installed, Allana Pinkerton, certified child passenger safety technician for Diono, has compiled six tips for installing car seats safely. Following these quick and effective tips, parents can make sure their car seat is properly installed and optimized for protecting their child while traveling.
1. READ THE MANUAL
It sounds simple, but most of us do not read manuals for the products we buy. While it might be easy to set up your new coffee maker or flat screen TV, installing a car seat is serious business and the manual is written according to how the car seat is crash tested. Read the warnings and the table of contents first, and then refer to the pages for your specific installation. Some situations might require a phone call to the manufacturer. Do not hesitate to call them if you need assistance. They are happy to help!
2. SLIDE THE BELT IN THE RIGHT PLACE
Car seats have belt paths for either the seat belt or the lower anchor straps to slide through. If the seat is a convertible, it will have two belt paths: one for rear-facing and one for forward-facing. It’s very important to use the appropriate belt path.
3. INSTALL THE SEAT TIGHT
Once you have pulled the seat belt tight and locked it or pulled the lower anchor strap tight, the car seat should move less than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back when you tug at the belt path. If there is too much movement, start the installation process over or change to another seating position.
4. HARNESS YOUR CHILD PROPERLY
Your child’s harness works just like a race car driver’s harness. It holds them in the car seat and spreads the crash forces over the strongest parts of the body. This helps decrease the risk of injury or death. The harness should fit snug and comfortable. Try the pinch test up near the collarbone. If you can pinch the harness webbing between your thumb and index finger, give another tug on the adjuster strap until you can’t pinch any webbing. While there might be room near the belly area, a snug fit up at the collarbone is all you need.
5. CHECK YOUR WORK
Most car seats are unknowingly installed incorrectly. You might look for a professional to teach your child how to play the piano, tutor them in math or teach them how to swim. Why not look for a professional that could possibly help save their life? There are dedicated Child Passenger Safety Technicians willing to help. In fact, many police and fire personnel are available to check your car seat for proper installation. Call or stop by your local station for more information and to schedule your own safety check.