Carseat Installation Safety

Carseat/booster seat usage is now almost universal in the US. This has greatly reduced serious injury from auto accidents in children.  Nevertheless crashes remain a great hazard in children (25% of all accidental injury deaths) and the National Highway Safety Administration finds still that 72.6% of carseats are not installed properly.  Here are some things to remember.

For newborns and infants be sure you place the seat at the proper angle.  Too low may not provide sufficient protection.  Too upright too soon may result in serious head injury in a crash as the child could flop violently during impact.  Head control is an evolving process in infants and is usually not reliable until past the first birthday.  Also, being too upright too early can even risk some airway compromise.

Pay attention to positioning of chest clips and straps. The clip should be at chest level(too high, again, bad for airway, too low and the child can slip through). The shoulder straps should go through the slats BELOW the child’s shoulders in a rear facing carseat and in the slats ABOVE the shoulders when forward facing. Don’t forget the tether strap must be secured to the anchor at the base of the back of the seat.

Be careful with winter coats and other bulky outerwear. These can cause laxity and allow the child to slip through in a violent collision. Better to use a light jacket and then cover the restrained child with the coat or heavier blanket. When properly restrained, you should not be able to pinch any loose material of the engaged straps between your fingers.

Use seat belt clips ONLY from the one seat.  DON’T install the carseat in  the middle by using the outside belt restraint from the other seats ; if the middle does not have its own seatbelt then it’s better to secure the child in the seat at either side that does have one. Only use the middle seat if it has a seatbelt or anchors specifically for that seat.

Be sure to follow weight and height/length guidelines listed for that specific model.

The latest guidelines for forward facing carseat now is to delay turn around well past 2 years.  It’s more weight than age.  Most children will be comfortable rear facing until AT LEAST 35 lbs.

No rush to get a young child out of the booster seat. Most modern boosters are designed to accommodate a child to at least 65 lb (that’s an 8 year old, folks!). To check if your child is safe out of a booster seat, note the positioning of the 3 point harness contact points. The shoulder harness should contact the sternum and the lap belt should go across the hips.  If they contact the neck or the waist then then those soft areas can sustain serious injury from the belt itself in a collision.

Finally, all modern cars have front airbags.  These are designed to cushion impact by contacting the chest area of a person at least 90 lb and 58″. Smaller persons can be struck in the face, again, causing serious trauma during a collision from the bag itself. They should sit in the back.

Studies suggest that following these guidelines can lower your child’s risk of serious injury in a car accident by as much as 75%, so please keep them in mind.

Thanks for following. Image from Sunday Times Driving.