We take steps everyday to keep our kids safe. So how do we keep them safe at 60 miles per hour when 9 out of 10 car seats are improperly installed? There are some easy steps you can take to assure your kids are safe while traveling on the road.
As children grow so do their car seat needs. Here are some guidelines to help you select the right seat:
• Birth to at least 2 years and or 30 pounds. – Infant rear-facing restraint or convertible restraint rear-facing.
• 2 year to 4 years or the highest weight limit on your harness – Forward-facing convertible restraint with 5 point harness.
• 4 years to 8 years – Belt Positioning Booster Seat
• The right seat is the one that fits your child, that fits your vehicle and one that you will use right every time.
This is key for your child seat to work properly. Here are some guidelines to follow:
• Take the time to read the vehicle and car seat owner’s manual.
• A properly installed seat should not move more than an inch side to side or back to front.
• The seat belt should be locked or use the correct LATCH anchors. Really read the vehicle manual and child seat manual.
• Booster seats are not installed. They are just set on the vehicle seat and the vehicle lap and shoulder seatbelt is used.
• For help with installation you can check the SAFEKIDS.ORG website for a site near you.
Proper use is very important. You want to know how your seat works and become familiar with it.
• With rear facing seats the harness needs to at or below the child’s shoulder. Unless the owner manual states differently.
• With forward facing seats the harness needs to be at or above the shoulders. Unless the owner manual states differently.
• The harness should be snug. Only be able to place a finger between the strap and the child’s body.
• With booster seats, the shoulder strap needs to come across the chest and the lap belt needs to sit low on the hips.
• It is best to not use heavy jackets in the winter time. Layer the child’s clothing. Place blankets over the child. Never under the child.
In general, it is always good to read the car seat manual and the vehicle manual. Every car seat, vehicle and child is different. The safest place for your child will always be the back seat. It is best to never put a child under 13 in the front seat. Vehicles now are equipped with air bags that may be unsafe for children. Remember to read the vehicle’s owner’s manual to find the safest place for children. Please remember that states have varying laws related to child passenger safety.
And most importantly: educate yourself. For more information on car seat safety visit www.safekids.org.
Contributed by Teri Wetternach is a National Child Passenger Safety Instructor.