According to The National Transportation Safety Board, four out of five children ride in improperly installed car seats. Could your child be one of them? Ask yourself these questions to find out:
Do I have the right seat for my child?
Infants should always be placed in a rear-facing car seat. Children who are 1 year old and at least 20 pounds can ride in a forward-facing car seat.
Is the car seat in the safest spot in the car?
The most secure place for any child is in the back seat. Also, young children should never be seated near an air bag.
Are the car seat's harness straps in the correct position?
Make sure that the shoulder harness rests snugly on your baby's shoulders. Position the plastic clip on the harness at your child's armpit level so it holds the shoulder straps in place.
Do I need a locking clip?
You do if your car has the type of seat belts that allow passengers to move while they're buckled and only "lock" when you hit the brakes. All new car seats should come with a locking clip. Install the locking clip right above the latch plate (the metal part of the seatbelt buckle.)
Is my infant's head supported well enough?
It's easy to tell: If your baby's head flops forward, it is not getting enough support. To remedy this, place a rolled towel under the front of the car seat to tip it back a bit.
Does my car have the right kind of seat belts?
Seat belts that are mounted on the door of your car (the type that move automatically when you open and close the door) should not be used to anchor a car seat. Ask your car dealer to install a special lap belt designed to strap the car seat in place.
Is the car seat attached tightly enough?
Once you route the seat belt through the correct path on the car seat, pull it as tight as you can. When you pull or push on the fastened seat it should move no more than an inch in any direction.
Are the straps twisted?
Always make sure that the straps holding your child or the belts attaching the car seat to your car are not twisted.
Have I read the instruction manual that came with the car seat?
There are many different models of car seats, and the instructions for installing them can vary. Be sure to read your owner's manual completely for directions on installing your particular car seat.
Since car seats are so tricky to install correctly, it's wise to have yours checked out at a child safety seat inspection station where a trained technician can find and fix any problems with the way your seat is attached. You can search for an inspection station near you at the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site.Safer car seats
A new attachment system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is going to make installing car seats a snap. Here's how it works: As of September 2002 all new cars will come fitted with a lower anchor bar in the back seat. All new car seats (also as of September 2002) will be equipped so that they simply hook right onto your car's lower anchor bar. No more fussing with seat belts to attach your child's car seat! --Kristen Finello
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