Finding the safest seat for your child or grandchild is essential—but it isn’t a guaranteed way to keep them secure on the road. While the correct use of child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71%, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that nearly 46% of child restraints are used incorrectly. Follow this guide for a safer ride.
Did You Know?
The Bunny Bear Company invented the first car seat in the 1930s, but the intent wasn’t safety for children—it was meant to keep them contained during drives.
After you’ve narrowed down your car seat search, make sure the one you’ve selected is right for your child. First, get the right fit: It must be appropriate for your child’s weight, height, and age. Next, verify that the seat is still well within the period before expiration. Check manufacturer notes to make sure the seat will fit properly in your vehicle.
USABILITY AFTER A CRASH
According to the NHTSA, a car seat is no longer considered usable when it has been in a moderate to severe crash, defined by any of the following: deploying air bags, injuries sustained by any passengers, damage to the door nearest the car seat, or damage to the vehicle that impairs its function. Check the manufacturer’s information for your specific seat.
Installation The latest safety guidelines recommend rear-facing car seats until a child is a minimum of two years of age.
For placement, opt for the center seat whenever you can, as this keeps the child as far as possible from impact sites. If you have more than one small rider, place the oldest child in the center: If they are forward facing, they need the most added protection. Follow the seat manufacturer's instructions when you're ready to install, and check your vehicle's manual for information about securing a car seat. Your vehicle might have anchors built in, which can be used to attach the car seat.
Once you’ve secured the seat, do the “wiggle test.” Shake the seat and, if it moves more than one inch, secure it more tightly.
Use One of the more common mistakes that caregivers make is not securing the belt harness properly. Belts should be snug and secure, with no twists or gathers. You should not be able to pinch an inch or more of slack when the belt is on. The chest clip should rest high on the chest, parallel with the child’s armpits—not near the stomach.