After helping thousands of families get back on their feet, our staff agrees that there is nothing worse than when one of the victims in an accident is a child. In many cases, the severity of the child’s injuries was reduced by the correct use of a car seat. Unfortunately, there are also accidents where the child’s injuries were more severe than they had to be due to the incorrect use of a car seat.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that over 70% of child safety seats are not installed properly. This can lead to serious injury or death if involved in a car accident. Even though we appreciate all of our clients, we hope this information can stop a child from becoming one.
Car Seat Installation
- Make sure the safety belt holds the seat tight in its place. If the car seat can be used facing either way, make sure you are putting the belt through the correct slots.
- Please use the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system when installing the seat. Even though the LATCH system is not required for bigger children or a booster seat, it is a requirement on child safety seats and most manufactured vehicles since 2002. If the vehicle does not have the LATCH system, then it is ok to use the seat belt – but please do not use both at the same time.
- Once installed, make sure you give your car seat the inch test. Give it a good tug where the seat belt is going though. If there is more than an inch of movement front to back or side to side, then it is too loose.
- Make sure the harness is coming from the right slots and tightly buckled. Make sure there is no slack around the shoulder areas and the chest clip is at armpit level.
- To be sure the car seat is installed correctly; you should go to a car seat inspection station. This is a service that is almost always free and just takes a few minutes. You can find your local inspection station here.
Did you know car seats have an expiration date?
- Every car seat comes with an expiration date. You can find this date in the car seat’s user guide, molded in the seat and/or printed on the shell.
- Most car seats last five to nine years after the manufactured date – not the purchase date.
- The expiration date is there to make us aware the car seat may be worn out when we reach that date, as well as keeping up with the advances of safety standards as new technologies are developed.
- The reason one car seat may have a longer expiration date than another is the type of materials that were used when building the seats.
When does a child move up to the next safety restraint?
Many parents tend to move children up to the next set of safety restraints sooner than they should. The reason it’s important not to rush these steps is you want to make sure the seatbelt fits correctly in case of an accident. This is why the child’s height and/or weight are the determining factor of what seat they should be using.
- Rear-Facing Seats are for infants and should be used until the child outgrows it – at least a year old and twenty pounds.
- Forward-Facing Seats should be used until the child reaches the upper height or weight limit. This is usually around four years old and forty pounds.
- Booster Seats should continue to be used until the safety belt fits the child correctly without the seat. For a safety belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt must fit across the chest. This usually happens when a child reaches the age of eight, weighs eighty pounds and/or is 4’9″ tall.
- Generally, children 13 years and older can ride safely buckled up in the front seat of a vehicle.
Buying a used car seat
If you are buying a used car seat, you need to know the answers to these questions:
- Has the car seat ever been in an accident?
- Does the car seat still have all its parts and pieces?
- Does the car seat still have all of its labels for proper use attached?
- Has the car seat been recalled?