Most parents would agree that their babies and toddlers need to be strapped into a car seat to avoid injury or worse; yet often neglect the importance of proper car seat installation
However, they may not realize their baby’s car seats might not have been properly installed to begin with. This poses an even greater danger to the child strapped inside of the seat; especially, if they are involved in an automobile accident.
Recently, a 2-year-old child in Minnesota was found in the middle of the road still strapped to a car seat. The city indicated that the child was properly secured to the seat; however, the seat was not properly secured to the car.
In this instance, the child was found uninjured according to the city. The incident brought awareness that proper installation is key to prevent similar accidents from occurring again.
According to Lorrie Walker, a technical adviser at Safe Kids Worldwide, proper installation of car seats is an important first step.
“It’s the whole package,” Walker told Good Morning America [GMA]. “It’s just as important to have the car seat installed correctly in the car, as it is to have your child placed and harnessed into the car seat correctly. They work together.”
Below are a few car seat guidelines as published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) pertaining to installation:
Rear Facing Car Seats
The direction the seat faces is a serious consideration for safety reasons.
In 2018, AAP issued new car seat safety guidelines encouraging parents to keep their children’s car seats in the rear-facing position for longer.
Or at least, until they have reached the manufacturer’s height or weight limits; instead of an age limit.
As a result, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the AAP council on injury, said that car seat manufacturers have increased the weight limit; it is now 40 plus pounds for rear facing seats .
“[This] means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday.”
And while this is important, it does not relieve the difficulty of proper installation.
Dr. Hoffman acknowledges that car seat installation is not an easy task. However, taking the time to learn how to properly install them could save a life.
We know that over three-quarters of car safety seats are installed with critical errors that may impact the way the car seat works and lead to increased risk of injury for children,” Dr. Hoffman told GMA.
We know that over 95 percent of families leaving hospitals with newborns also make serious mistakes. This is not the family’s fault, as I said, car seats are hard.”
Moreover, once the car seat is installed, it should not move more than an inch from side to side, or front to back. A car seat that shifts indicates that it’s still not tight enough, for instance.
“We want the car to do most of the work in terms of absorbing all of the force in a crash,” Hoffman said. “[Otherwise,] a loose car safety seat will transfer more of that energy to the child, and the risk for injury will go up.”
car seat installation
Secure the seat with LATCH or a Seat Belt
LATCH, which lower anchors and tethers, is an attachment system used to install a car seat instead of a seat belt.
LATCH can be found in nearly all car seats and passenger vehicles made on or after Sept. 1, 2002.
Parents may choose to use LATCH or a seat belt to secure the seat, but Walker said to only use “one or the other,” not both.
How to properly install a car seat using LATCH
First, the AAP advises fastening the lower anchor connectors to the lower anchors located between where the back seat cushions meet.
These lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds, which takes into account the combined weight of the car seat and child’s weight.
Next check the car seat manufacturer’s recommendations or car seat label for the maximum weight allowed for a child to be when using lower anchors.
Finally, follow your instructions manual, and then pull LATCH strap tightly, applying a significant amount of weight into the seat.
The Expert’s Corner:
- Read more about the AAP’s car safety recommendations and guidelines.
- Safe Kids Worldwide provides an ultimate car seat safety guide complete with car seat buying tips, and more on their website.
- If your child has been injured due to someone’s negligence or a recall/defective product issue, call a personal injury attorney for a free consultation and case evaluation.
Photo: The child pictured is a model and is not the subject of the Minnesota incident discussed in this article.