5 Car Seat Installation Tips for a Safer Ride

Did you know that September is Baby Safety Month and we are just a few days away from National Child Passenger Safety Week, which is Sept. 15-21, 2013? Yes, this month is all about boosting your child’s safety in all areas, from the car, to proper baby proofing, to reducing the risks of SIDS. It’s that time where we take a little refresher to make sure we are creating a safe environment for baby. For us, it’s about choosing a convertible car seat for Grayson. As he is approaching a year old and 19 pounds, well, his Orbit Baby infant car seat is just a little snug for our big guy. After speaking with a Orbit Baby director of regulatory and engineering compliance and certified child passenger safety technician, I felt much more at ease from the tips he shared, and was excited to choose an Orbit Baby Toddler Car Seat for his next few years as we took a smart, eco-safe step choosing this car seat for Grayson.

Personally, the ease of installation is so important when you select a car seat because if it’s easier for the parent to install, the more likely he or she is to do it correctly every time. This was one of the reasons we choose Orbit Baby, because their patented technology allows for a secure installation in only 60 seconds. Grayson’s infant car seat was the easiest car seat ever for us to install. After having four different car seats (as we have had a different car seat for each of our previous children), it was by far my favorite because I didn’t feel stressed when it came to installing it and I knew he was safe. Pair with some great car seat installation tips and you will be good to go!

Click-through 5 car seat installation tips for a safer ride with baby! 

  • Safety First! 1 of 6
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    Car seat installation doesn't need to be stressful. Click through for 5 car seat installation tips for parents to make sure baby has a safer ride. 

  • Tip: Learn how to install your convertible car seat with the vehicle seat belt 2 of 6
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    When installing a car seat with a LATCH belt, the lower anchorages in your vehicle are only rated to withstand a certain load. With modern car seats getting bigger and being able to accommodate older children, the combined weight often exceeds the vehicle manufacturer's limits long before a child reaches the maximum weight of the car seat itself. Currently parents need to carefully read their vehicle manufacturer's instruction manual to find out the maximum weight of child for use with LATCH installation, and this weight varies from vehicle to vehicle. Some state a maximum child weight of 48 pounds, while others state 40 punds, while others don't list a weight at all. The NHTSA passed a rule that will go into effect for car seats manufactured after February 2014 where all car seats must be labeled with the maximum child weight for a LATCH installation. I am so thankful for my LATCH belts; they make installation a breeze. 

  • Tip: Consider the middle position 3 of 6
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    Most parents have heard that the middle position is the safest for the child, while also hearing that LATCH is the easiest way to install a car seat. However, did you know that most vehicles do not allow LATCH installation of a car seat in the middle position? The middle position is considered the safest position for side impact collisions when the direction of the collision is not known. However, the current federal standard only tests for frontal collisions, making the middle seat no different from any of the outboard positions in terms of compliance to the regulations. Parents should consider who else will be riding in the car and whether a car seat in the middle position will prevent them from being able to safely transport other occupants (for example, by blocking access to outboard vehicle seat belts). While in some car seats a LATCH installation may be easier than using a vehicle seat belt, parents may just need some additional practice with a vehicle seat belt, especially if they still want to use a middle position that doesn't allow for LATCH. 

  • Tip: Don’t forget to tighten around the thighs 4 of 6
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    Harnessing a squirmy child can be a difficult skill to master. We encourage all expecting parents to practice often on dolls and stuffed animals to get comfortable with the car seat harnesses alone before they have to buckle in a screaming, dynamic bundle. Practice methodically tightening the harness from the bottom up. After inserting the buckles, remove the slack from around the thighs before focusing on the chest and shoulder areas. Tightening the harness using the adjuster lock on the car seat will only remove the slack from the shoulder areas, so it's up to you to remember the thighs!

  • Tip: Understand the 1" rule 5 of 6
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    Child passenger safety technicians will often spout the 1" rule to check if a car seat is correctly installed. The seat should not move more than 1" when tugging at it left and right to check for tightness. More specifically, however, the 1" rule is about pulling left and right at the belt path of the car seat with roughly 15 pounds of force, which translates to using your non-dominant hand to perform the check. It's not about picking any spot on the car seat and tugging with all your might to see if it moves, and it's not necessary to have a rock-tight installation. Practice checking your car seat for a correct installation, and do this often. A passenger might unknowingly unbuckle the wrong seat belt, so it's important to check that your car seat continues to be correctly installed over time.

  • Tip: Try before you buy 6 of 6
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    Remember: the safest car seat is one that fits your vehicle, your child, and can be installed correctly by you every time! This means that you should absolutely make sure a car seat fits in your vehicle before purchasing it. If you already have a child, see if they fit in the car seat and are comfortable sitting in it. Play around with a car seat's features while in the store to understand how to install it into your vehicle or safely harness your child. All car seats on the market meet the federal regulations only when used correctly, so price differences in car seats are often about easier-to-use features that will help a parent install the car seat correctly.

See all of Casi’s Babble posts here, check her out on Spearmint BabyThe Little Style File  and Rags to Stitches.

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