Did you know that more than 90 percent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly?
This means that you could think you are doing everything right, but chances are, your baby could be safer.
Here are 10 tips to make sure your children are safe in their car seats.
Read the manual
Read the manuals for both car and car seat carefully.
It may seem obvious, but this is extremely important. If you don’t read the directions, you may miss something critical in the use or installation of your car seat. Car Seat
Put your weight into it
Kneel in the car seat as you are putting the car seat in. Actually climb into the car and put your weight into the seat.
Then pull the seatbelt as tight as it can go.
If your car seat moves side to side or forward a little bit after it is installed, it is too loose.
Later model cars have locking seatbelt latch plates, or seatbelts which, when pulled all the way out, will lock in position.
Check your owner’s manual to be sure.
If you have a car manufactured earlier than 1995, or if you can’t get your car seat tight by kneeling in it, you will need a locking clip. Locking clips should be placed a half-inch from the buckle.
To put a locking clip on, buckle the car seat in, kneel in it to get it tight, then unbuckle.
Hold the seatbelt tight so you know the position it should be in, then install the locking clip one half-inch from the buckle. Re-buckle. You may have to kneel in the seat again in order to get the buckle tight.
Get the right angle
Infant car seats should be at a 45-degree angle. Sometimes the incline of the automobile’s seat or way the car seat fits into the car puts it at the wrong angle.
Use a rolled up bath towel right next to the seat back, and under the car seat (towards the infant’s feet) to change the angle.
Straighten those straps
Twisted straps can apply too much pressure on the baby, in the wrong places.
Untwist all the straps.
Every time you put the baby in, straighten the straps. Check the car seat owner’s manual to make sure you have threaded the straps correctly, and that you have placed the straps around the baby correctly.
The harness that connects the straps together should be fastened around the baby’s armpits.
Make sure that straps are snug and tight, just one or two finger-widths from shoulders. Babies are comforted by snug surroundings, so don’t worry that the straps are too tight.
Be careful about clothes
Hot weather can cause plastic parts of the car seat to get very hot.
Make sure your child has clothing, particularly longer shorts or pants to prevent them from getting burned.
Heavy winter clothes and bulky hoods can prevent straps from tightening as they should. Put hoods up as you put the child into the car seat. They can go down later, after the straps are tight.
Remember that the straps should be one or two finger-widths from the child’s shoulders. You may have to pull the straps tight manually.
Or better yet, have your children wear sweatshirts and blankets in the car, and use heavy coats only when you go out.
Back it up
Never put your car seat in the front seat if you have an airbag. Airbags can injure or kill small children, particularly those in rear-facing car seats.
Watch out for hand-me-downs
Be careful if your neighbor offers you her old seat, or you see a car seat at a garage sale.
Car seats have a life of about five to six years. After that, the plastics can be weakened, and other parts can be fatigued and not adequately protect your child in a crash.
Buy only from the original owner.
Car seats are only good for one crash, and then should be replaced.
The original owner can assure you that the seat was never in a crash.
Never buy a car seat from a thrift store or consignment shop, since you will not know its history.
If you decide to get a used seat, check out the recall information. You can find car seat recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As your baby grows
Make sure your baby is not too heavy or tall for the car seat. Read the instructions to find out height and weight limitations.
Younger infants must face to the rear because their spines are weaker, and they might sustain injury in a crash.
Older children may face forward.
After your child outgrows a car seat, move him or her to a booster seat.
A seat belt-positioning booster seat will keep the seatbelt from crossing the child’s neck or head. The seatbelt will be across the child’s shoulder, which can sustain the force of a crash.
Keep the child in the booster seat until he or she is four and a half feet tall, or exceeds the weight limit on the seat.
Your child may be the only 7-year-old in a booster seat, but he or she will be much safer in an accident than a child who is small and buckled in an adult seat belt.
Nothing works well if it is unused.
Use your car seat every time, for every trip, even if it is just a short one. Keep in mind that most accidents happen just a few miles from home.
By being consistent, and by making sure your car seats are installed correctly and used right, you can improve the chances that your children will remain safe no matter what happens.
You know you need to use your seatbelt, especially during pregnancy. You know you need to use a car seat for your baby. But did you know that a small piece of metal attached to the seatbelt holding your baby’s car seat can make the difference between a safe ride and a scary trip?
If your baby’s car seat is strapped in with a lap/shoulder seatbelt that is one continuous loop (makes a triangle when clipped into the belt lock), you need to always use an additional metal locking clip to help hold the seat in place.
Without this 2 by 3 inch metal “clip” locking the car’s seatbelt tightly in position, the lap portion of the seatbelt could loosen, and in an accident, your child – still in the car seat – could be severely injured. Fortunately, a locking clip is inexpensive and easy to use.
After verifying that you have positioned the car seat correctly in the car, follow these five simple steps to ensure your child’s protection:
- Bring the seatbelt across the car seat and buckle as usual. Tighten the seatbelt as much as possible.
- Firmly hold the shoulder and lap portions of the seatbelt together just behind the sliding latch plate and unbuckle the seatbelt.
- Still holding the seatbelts together, weave the locking clip over both layers of seatbelt about ½ an inch from the sliding latch plate. (When you are done, you will see four metal ‘legs” inlaid with the seatbelt.)
- Re-buckle the seatbelt – it should still fit tightly. Test for a secure installation by tugging hard on the lap portion of the seatbelt and by forcing the car seat from side to side and back and forth. If the lap seatbelt loosens, repeat these steps or install the car seat elsewhere in the car.
- Contact your car dealer for advice if you feel you cannot secure the car seat satisfactorily.
Although the locking clip’s assistance in gripping the seatbelt is important when restraining a car seat, it should never be used for a normally seated passenger
If you cannot find your locking clip or your seat was provided without one, ask first if they are sold at the store where you bought your car seat.
Otherwise, they are available for purchase by mail from most car seat manufacturers and some automotive parts dealers for about $3 each.
Be sure not to confuse the metal locking clips with the convenience clips that are used to hold the shoulder portion of the seatbelt away from a shorter passenger’s face and neck, as those will offer no protection in an accident.