The CDC estimates that 59% of car seats are misused in a way that reduces their effectiveness. That means that the car seats we carefully research, install, and use every day may not be keeping our children safe. Dawn Wallen is a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety technician who works for the Findlay City Health Department. Wallen shares her safety tips for proper car seat installation and usage.
Know thy car seat
The safest car seat is a properly installed car seat. Carefully read the manual for your particular model and consider scheduling an appointment to have your car seat inspected by the Hancock County Health Department. This service is free, although donations are accepted, and by appointment only.
Location, Location, Location
The safest location for a car seat in a vehicle is the center seat of the rear. Car seats should only be installed in the backseat of a vehicle.
Make sure it’s tight!
Your car seat should not move more than one inch side to side or forward.
To properly tighten your car seat, place your knee in the seat, putting all of your weight into the seat while tightening the seatbelt or latch system pulls until the car seat no longer moves more than an inch. The same goes for the harness straps on your child. Straps should be snug, not allowing for any material to be pinched between fingers at the child’s shoulder.
“If it didn’t come with the car seat, don’t use it.”
Wallen cautions parents and caregivers from using toys or head supports that did not come from the manufacturer with their car seat. “In a crash, those toys can injure an infant by coming loose and hitting the child. Head supports can allow the infant’s head to fall too far forward potentially cutting off the baby’s airway.” If you think your infant needs head support in the car seat Wallen recommends using two rolled receiving blankets on either side of the baby’s head to help support.
Know the law
- Infants should be in a rear facing car seat until they are age 1 and 20lbs (although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends age 2.)
- Children must remain in a 5-point harnessed convertible car seat until they are 4 years old and 40lbs.
- A child must remain in a booster seat until he or she is 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches.
Never, ever, leave a child alone in a car. In a hot car, an infant’s body temperature can rise 3-4x faster than an adult’s. “If you forget your keys or just need to run into the house to grab something, always remove your child from the car. We are human and can be easily distracted or unaware of how quickly a car can heat up.” Wallen advises putting your cell phone or purse in the backseat of your vehicle so you will have to open your rear door and look at the car seat to retrieve it, lessening the chance of forgetting a child in a car.