GUEST POST: by David Hermes Stanley
Off to get a mani and pedi…Mr. Stanley (aka Car Seat writer guy) has so kindly offered to write this informative piece on car seat safety and how to get the durn thang installed correctly. Isn’t he totally awesome!? My additional advice is…(because I just can’t keep my opinions to myself)…ALWAYS HAVE A CAR SEAT PROFESSIONAL (FROM THE CITY, POLICE, OR YOUR HOSPITAL CHECK YOUR CAR SEAT FOR CORRECT POSITIONING!! ~ Nurse Mommy
(Now David, it’s your turn to shine!!!)
I am sure you all know by now that if you are driving by car with your baby, he or she should be seated and secured in a specially designed infant car seat, not just because it is required by law in all American states and pretty much all the countries in the world, but also because it is the only way to ensure that your child will be safe in the unfortunate event of a crash. With that being said, nowadays those car seats are usually pretty high on a parent’s “to buy” list when preparing for the arrival of his or her baby.
Buying a good infant car seat however, is only one half of the equation. The other half is installing it properly and unfortunately, most parents seem to fail at that. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 3 out of 4 or 75% of infant car seats found in cars, are not properly installed! Here are some tips and instructions that should help you install your seat as properly and safely as possible, even if you are doing so for the very first time in your life.
1. Read the manuals
Before you start installing your baby car seat, you should carefully read the manual that comes with it, as well as that of your car. Keep those manuals close to you throughout the entire installation process; they will certainly come in handy!
2. Proper placement and orientation
The safest place to install an infant car seat is as close to the center of your car’s backseat as possible, or in the middle backseat if you own a minivan, a station wagon or a “people carrier”. When it comes to the seat’s orientation, all infants, newborns and toddlers should be seated in a rear facing seat. Please note that a rear facing seat should NEVER be installed in the passenger seat of a car equipped with passenger side airbags. Children should remain in those seats until they get at least two years old or until they reach the weight and height safety limits indicated by the seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows his rear facing seat, he or she may “graduate” to a front facing one.
3. Proper installation
Modern infant car seats are installed and secured using two methods: the so called LATCH system and the car’s seat belts.
- Using the LATCH system: LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and is a system that has been specially designed to make infant car seat installation as easy, quick and safe as possible. All cars manufactured from 2002 onwards and many earlier models are compatible with it. Seats using the LATCH are permanently attached to special “anchors” found in the rear seats of the cars mentioned above. You can locate those “anchors” by reading your car’s manual, or by feeling around the backseat. Just attach the seat to the anchors following the instructions provided by the seat’s manufacturer and you should be fine.
- Using the seat belts: If your car is not LATCH compatible or if you don’t want to use this system, then you’ll have to secure your infant car seat in place using your car’s seat belts. The most important thing when installing an infant car seat this way, is making sure that the seat belt is threaded through the right slots, so keep checking the seat’s manual to make sure that you have the right one. Apart from that, you should also pull the belt as tightly as possible; making sure that it has no slack. Once you’ve done that, buckle the belt and start trying to move seat forwards and backwards and side to side, if it’s not moving more than an inch in each direction, you’re good to go! Please note that the seat belts of some older models only lock into place in if the car comes to a sudden stop. If that is the case with your car’s seat belts, then you are going to have to get a locking clip to secure them into place.
4. The inch rule
Your seat should always be installed as safely and as tightly as possible. The best way to ensure this, is putting some weight on it when you are installing it. You can do this by placing your knee on the seat for as much of the installation process as possible. This will make sure that your infant car seat is installed as closely to your car’s seat as possible. Once you’re done installing the seat, try yanking and moving it forwards and backwards and side to side. If it doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction, then congratulations, your seat is properly installed. If it does move however, you are going to have to reinstall it.
David Hermes Stanley is a freelance writer currently writing for a website focusing on reviews and articles concerning the top rated car seats for infants and toddlers.