When you installed your child’s safety seat, you read the instructions, consulted the car’s owner’s manual, and may have even taken the seat to an inspection station to make sure you did it all right.
However, that may have been months ago.
Have you taken the time recently to double-check the straps and positioning? Do you know for sure that the seat still fits your child correctly?
Now is the time to find out.
Every September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsors National Child Passenger Safety Week to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of child safety seats. The week culminates in National Seat Check Saturday, an opportunity for everyone to double-check their children’s seat. In honor of this important day, we review some important seat installation tips and tell you where you can go for free inspections.
How to Properly Install a Child Seat
Every seat and each car is different, so it's important to read both the instruction manual for the seat and the owner’s manual for your car. On its Safecar.gov website, NHTSA provides helpful videos showing installation techniques for every type of car seat—from rear-facing infant seat to a bottom-only booster.
Mistakes people commonly make when installing car seats include the following:
- Threading seatbelts incorrectly. Depending on the design of the seat and the type of seatbelts your car has, there will be one correct way to route the seatbelt through the car seat’s holders. Follow the instructions for both the seat and the car.
- Not putting seatbelts in lock mode. If you're installing the car seat using the seatbelts, they must be locked out—meaning they won't give with motion. Read the car’s instruction manual to find out how to do this.
- Using both the LATCH system and the seatbelt. Cars built since the year 2000 come equipped with the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system to be used instead of the seatbelt for holding the car seat in place. Many people mistakenly use both systems at the same time.
- Connecting the LATCH system to the wrong points in the car. People who don't read the car’s instruction manual may attach the car seat’s tether to a cargo hook or other point in the car rather than actual LATCH anchor. These points aren't designed to hold a car seat in place. Also, make sure you're attaching the seat to the correct anchor for the position you've chosen for the seat.
- Not putting enough weight on the seat as it's being installed. To make sure the seat is installed as tightly as possible, you should place your knee in the seat and apply all of your weight as you tighten the belts or tethers. The seat shouldn't move more than an inch in any direction when you tug it.
Even when you're confident you've done everything right, a final look by a professional is a good idea to make sure your child’s seat is as secure as it can possibly be.
Finding a Car Seat Inspection Station
Check your favorite local news outlet for a National Seat Check Saturday event near you, or make an appointment at one of these inspection stations in the Kansas City area:
- Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics, 2401 Gillham Road, 816-234-1607
- Safety and Health Council of Western MO and KS, 5829 Troost Avenue, 816-842-5223 x233
- Saint Luke’s Hospital, 4401 Wornall Road, 816-932-5100
- I-70 Auto Service, 3111 Stadium Drive, 816-921-0505
- Saint Luke’s Northland Hospital/Thoroughbred Ford, I-29 & Barry Road, 816-932-6220
According to the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program, a certified inspector should do the following during a car seat check-up:
- Fill out a form to note the car seat type, location in vehicle, and misuse observations, if any.
- Ensure your car seat is appropriate for your child’s age and size.
- Review the car seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual to ensure that both are being followed correctly. Remember to bring the vehicle owner’s manual with you.
- Ensure that an appropriate seating position in the vehicle is being used.
- Check the car seat for recalls, visible damage, and an expiration date.
- Watch you install the car seat(s) correctly using either the seat belt or LATCH system.
- Discuss the next steps for each child, such as when to graduate to the next type of car seat.
- Discuss the benefits of everyone riding properly buckled in, including all adults.
- Discuss safety in and around the vehicle.
- Answer any questions you may have, so ask away!
We hope you've found this car seat safety review helpful! As experienced accident attorneys, we see far too many tragedies involving children not restrained properly. Take the time this September to make sure you don't become a statistic.