Car Seat Installation Tips
Car crashes are the leading cause of mortality for children under the age of 12, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Securing children in car seats dramatically reduces the risk of death —possibly 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.
The effectiveness of child restraints in passenger only works as long as the seats are properly installed.
A recent NHTSA study found that 20 percent of parents hadn’t read the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use but a whopping 90 percent of parents were confident they’d installed their children’s safety seats correctly . Given this disparity, safety experts encourage parents to carefully check their kids’ car seats and booster seats.
Check the installation.
NHTSA found these to be the most common mistakes in the use of child restraints:
- Harness straps too high or too low. They should be positioned at or below the baby’s shoulders in rear-facing seats and at or above the child’s shoulders in forward-facing seats.
- Harness clips fastened over the stomach. Clips should always be used and fastened over the child’s chest.
- Excessive seat movement. Seats that move more than an inch in any direction are not secure and need to be anchored snugly.
- Slack of two inches or more in the harness strap. Excess room in the straps indicates they are too loose and need to be fitted more snugly. (see photo at right)
- Lap belts fastened over the stomach; shoulder belts too close to the face or neck. Lap belts should be fastened over the thighs and shoulder belts over the chest.
Check the size.
As quickly as children grow, parents need to periodically check that their passengers are still in the right-size seat. Use these guidelines:
- Rear-facing car seat
Infant-only seats are rear-facing; convertible and 3-in-1 seats also can handle more height and weight, so children can remain facing the rear longer—until they outgrow the car seat.
- Forward-facing car seat
Children should remain in rear-facing seats until they reach the manufacturer’s height and weight limits. Then switch to forward-facing seats with a harness.
- Booster seat
When children reach the height and weight limits of their forward-facing car seats with a harness, they can move to backseat booster seats.
- Seat belt
Children should remain in a booster until they’re big enough to fit into seat belts correctly.?
Children 12 and under should always ride in the backseat, where it’s safer.