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.

***Inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more likely to be seriously injured in crashes compared to children buckled up properly.***
Whether your child rides in a Britax Advocate, Peg Perego Convertible or Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible, THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. FACTORS. ARE:
  • Right SeatThe 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 saferRear-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 TestOnce 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 properlyNever place a rear-facing car seat in a front seat equipped with airbags.
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  1. Lisa Mallis

    Great information! I had no idea that car seats had expirations dates. I had a little giggle about your line “all children under 13 should ride in the backseat”. Yesterday, I met my sister to pick my nephew up (who is 13) and when she arrived he was sitting in the backseat, though the passenger seat was open. (Getting “old enough” to sit in the front seat was a big deal to him – so I was surprised he was sitting in the back). When I asked her why, she said he wanted to watch a movie. So – with the correct incentive – I’m guessing kids will sit in the back seat even longer!

    1. Duck Mommy

      Thanks for reading, Lisa! I’ve been shocked by the number of people that don’t know that. I’d never thought of the “in-flight movie” as an incentive to keep older kids in the back, but I think I like it!

  2. Diane

    I argued with my fiance for years that children should ride in the backseat! His daughters mom started letting her ride in the front when she was like 8. The law here in NY is . Children under the age of 16 must wear seat belts when they are in the front seat or the back seat. Children under the age of four must ride in safety seats.

    Now his daughter is 11 and she wears a seatbelt in the front but when she has to sit in the back, she puts the shoulder part of the seatbelt behind her. I told him once all it is going to take is one short stop and she will slam her head on the back of the seat in front of her, but he has to pick his battles since the mom and step dad let her do it.

    1. Duck Mommy

      Diane – that is very scary!! If the shoulder strap is behind her (or under her arms), she is getting eve less protection than wearing only a lap belt!! In addition to being illegal in many states, it increases the risk of belt-related internal injuries. If she cannot comfortably wear the shoulder/lap belt, she should be in a booster seat, regardless of her age.

      As a foster parent, I am well aware of the importance of picking your battles. Duck Daddy and I frequently ask ourselves and each other “Is this a hill you want to die on?” It sounds to me as though your fiance and his daughter’s mother are not willing to die on this hill – but they’re willing to let their daughter. 🙁

  3. Sharon Cattermole

    I dont have children…but this is such great advice.Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Duck Mommy

      Thanks for reading, Sharon!

  4. Pingback: The Foster Mom's Guide to Central Florida | #therightseat Child Passenger Safety Week

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