I start this post with a reminder… I am ABSOLUTELY not here to shame anyone. I just know that car seat safety is important, and the rules change constantly as new research comes out, and new carseats are made. I know that when I first had my daughter, the laws stated that kids stay rear-facing until age one… now they recommend age two (or older). For the specific laws in your state, check here.
This post is to help you know the most current research and info, not to scold you if you are or have been doing it “wrong.” The great thing about everything we do as parents is that we can fix it, change it or modify it as we go along. Parenting is a learning process, and, apparently, so is car seat safety.
Okay, so that being said, here are some of the basics on car seat safety, according to the latest reports:
- Kids should sit rear-facing for as long as possible. Two years is like the minimum (according to law in many places). But longer is safer, as long as they fit the criteria for the carseat… basically they should be rear-facing until they reach the top weight or height limit for the carseat. (Check the user manual).
- When the kids are forward-facing, the safest way is for the carseat to be fully upright (some carseats have a recline feature).
- If the kid is rear-facing, shoulder straps should come from the back of the carseat from slightly below the shoulders. Forward-facing, shoulder straps come from at or above the shoulders.
- Harness straps should be tightened so that no more than one finger can come between them and the child.
- The chest strap should be, well, right across the chest, at arm-pit level.
- For booster seats, adjust the lap belt so it lies snugly across the child’s upper thighs, not across the stomach, and adjust the shoulder belt so it rests across the chest.
- Bulky clothes (specifically coats!), and blankets should not be in buckled in with the child. It’s a pain in the butt, but take your child out of their coat before buckling them in.
- Carseats and boosters should always be in the backseat. As should the kids. 😉
Okay, good to know. But, wait. Now we know how the kid should be strapped into the carseat… but how should the carseat be installed in the car??
3 out of 4 carseats are installed incorrectly. Here’s how to fix that:
First, if you are using the LATCH system (you know, those anchors that makes it so easy to click that carseat into a (newer) car)…well, guess what??? There are some new rules! Basically: “Effective February 2014, parents should not use the lower anchors of LATCH if the combined weight of the child and the car seat is 65 pounds or more, according to NHTSA.” So just keep that in mind when installing your carseat. (If you can’t use the LATCH system, installing the carseat using the seatbelt works just as well!)
Places that will install your carseat for you and/or help you learn how to install it properly:
- Car Seat Inspection Site station locator, or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK
- Your local fire station. Look them up or give them a call to find out.
Videos on how to do it yourself:
- If you are still able to use the LATCH system because you fall under that 65 pound limit, here are installation videos and information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- YouTube videos from The Car Seat Lady – she has a video for, like, everything carseat-related.
Finally, here are some helpful websites that list all these rules, have more links to installation videos, and will answer any questions you may have about carseats, boosters, or just driving with children in general:
Parent’s Central Car Seat Safety website
And one more thing… if you are interested in carseat safety reviews:
- Baby Guy Gear Guide
- Consumer Reports – Tip: This site requires a subscription. However, many libraries have subscriptions! A great way to use this service is to look on your local library’s webpage to see what resources and websites they have subscriptions and links. Then just enter your library card number, and VOILA! You, too, can check out the consumer reports ratings for carseats and other baby-related things!
As always, do your research… and in this case, do whatever the research tells you because it’s probably a new law in your state, and is safer for your kid. But also, don’t get stressed if you were doing something wrong. Just fix it the best you can, or get you local carseat expert to fix it for you. 😉