Car seat safety: Proper fit and installation is 3 quadrillion times more important than a pretty pattern
In yesterday’s post, I pointed out that the best way to protect your child from the #1 killer of children 1-19 years old is to put them in the right safety seat, which is properly installed, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. When used properly, child safety and booster seats are proven “life savers,” reducing the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.
Yesterday I addressed the EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. piece of the equation. Today I want to talk about the right safety seat, which is properly installed bit.
- Right Seat: The most expensive car seat on the market will not protect your child if it is not the right size for your child or not installed properly!!!
For your child: Check your car seat’s manual to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Did you know your car seat has an expiration date? Make sure you double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
For your car: Make sure your safety seat can be properly installed in your vehicle. Be sure to read both the car seat manual and car’s owner’s manual carefully and follow all installation instructions. Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us will let you take one car seat at a time out to car to test installation. Even if you opt to buy online, testing the install before buying can save you enormous time and irritation.
- Right Direction: Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. The law usually requires that a child remain rear-facing until reaching 1 year of age AND 20 pounds, but the AAP and NHTSA recommend waiting until the child reaching the maximum height or weight of their rear-facing car seat. Children under age two are 75% less likely to be killed or suffer severe injuries in a crash if they are riding rear facing rather than forward facing. In fact, for children 1–2 years of age, facing the rear is five times safer. Rear-facing car seats are NOT a safety risk just because a child’s legs are bent at the knees or because they can touch/kick the vehicle seat.
- Inch Test: Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the belt path. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch at the belt path.
- Pinch Test: Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, slide your middle finger under the shoulder strap and pinch the strap between your thumb and index finger. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
- Right Place: All children under 13 should ride in the back seat. The middle back seat is the safest, if the car seat can be installed properly. Never place a rear-facing car seat in a front seat equipped with airbags.