Did you know that there is a 75-90% misuse rate for car seats? With statistics that high the odds are that you are making at least one mistake that could compromise the safety of your child during a car accident. This week marks Child Passenger Safety week and we would like to share 8 tips that you can use to reduce the misuse of car seats.
- Read your car seat and vehicle manuals. There is a great deal of force placed on a human being during the course of an accident. Car and car seat engineers have worked to design cars and car seats to reduce those injury causing forces on the human body. The manuals are the best resource you have to make sure that you are using them together for maximum protection during an accident. Each manual is sure to contain a few facts that you didn’t know.
- Make sure your child is in the right seat. The right seat is one that fits your child, fits your car, and will be used correctly each and every time.
- Your child should be within the weight and height limits of the seat. That information can be found on the stickers on the sides of the seat. Your child should be rear facing to a minimum of 2 years old, optimally until 4 years old or whenever they outgrow the rear facing limits of the seat.
- A child should remain forward facing with a harness until they outgrow the limits of their seat and/or they have the maturity to sit up properly, not lean, not reach, can stay awake for the entire ride and not slump, and meet the height and weight requirements of a booster seat. This usually occurs between the ages of 5-7.
- A child should continue to use a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly and they can sit all the way back on the vehicle seat, bend knees comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat, the seat belt is centered over the collar bone, the lap portion of the belt is low and touching the thighs, and the child can stay seated this way for the entire ride, every ride.
- Make sure the harness is in the right position. When your child is rear facing the straps should come from at or below the shoulders. When forward facing, the straps should come from at or above the shoulders. Check your child today.
- The chest clip should be at arm pit level each and every time your child rides in the car.
- For the harness to do its’ job, it must be snug. Once the harness is in place, try to pinch the straps at the collar bone level. If you can pinch any slack in the harness it is too loose and needs to be tightened.
- Do not place your child in their car seats with winter coats or bulky clothing. The harness will appear tight and in the event of an accident will compress leaving space between your child and the harness.
- Check the installation of the seat. Put your hand on the seat near the belt path, give it a tug with the force of a firm handshake. If it moves more than an inch, the seat is too loose and needs to be reinstalled.
- Top tether must be used in a forward facing position. The top tether is found at the top of the back of the car seat. Read your vehicle manual to know where in your vehicle to attach it.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive car seat safety checklist. There are many other things to be looked at to ensure the car seat is being used correctly. I suggest a visit to http://www.safekids.org/car-seat-events to find a check- up event or tech near you to have your seat checked. One never plans on being in an accident, therefore, it is important to put your children in their car seats each and every time as if you are going to be in a car accident during that ride.
Cherlyn Jenkins is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician who designed the Cozywoggle, a winter coat that is safe to be worn with the car seat.