4 things I learned from my car seat check

What you may be overlooking when installing your car seat

Meet Casey. He just turned 1. Happy birthday, buddy!

For Casey’s birthday I decided to give him the gift of safety (and mommy the gift of peace of mind!). I made an appointment with Safe Kids Louisville, led by Norton Children‘s Hospital to have his car seat inspected and installed by a certified car seat safety professional. Boy, did I learn a lot in 30 minutes!

Sharon Rengers, R.N., child advocate with the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital, worked with me to install a new car seat. She also took the time to explain how a properly installed seat will potentially save Casey’s life should we ever be involved in an accident.

Here’s four things I learned during my car seat check:

1. My car seat was outdated.

It turns out my car seat, a hand-me-down, was nine years old. It was out of date and therefore not so safe. The National Highway Traffic Administration recommends that car seats be retired from use after six years. And knowing the history on your car seat is critical. If your seat has ever been involved in a crash, it needs to be replaced.

2. You must read the installation instructions.

To be honest, I didn’t even have the instructions. Besides who needs them anyway, right? Wrong! That seat is your child’s only form of protection in a motor vehicle accident. Taking the time to read the instructions prior to installing the seat can save a life. Don’t assume you can figure out all the bells and whistles yourself.

3. Use the correct slots for rear-facing versus front-facing seats.

There are different slots for running the seatbelt or tether belts through the car seat depending on what type of seat you have. For seats that face the rear of the car (backward), you use the lower slot even with or just below the shoulder.  For forward-facing seats you use the higher slot above their shoulder and tether it at the top as well.

4. Your harness probably isn’t tight enough.

Once the seat was installed correctly, Rengers showed me how to secure Casey with the harness. Come to find out, I didn’t have it tight enough. Just like with our waist line, if you can “pinch an inch” of the harness, it is not tight enough! When your child is buckled into the harness, the straps need to have little to no extra give. Also, the retainer clip on the upper portion of the harness needs to be at your child’s armpit or nipple level.

There’s so much to know when installing a car seat, and I’m not alone in doing it improperly. According to Safe Kids, four out of five car seats are not installed properly. Don’t take short cuts and put your child’s life in danger. Get more information on how to properly use a child safety seat.


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