Here's part 2 of the Car Seat Safety article that I wrote for DesMoinesParent.com. See the original article here.
September 15-21, 2013 is National Child Passenger Safety week. The following is the second of a two-part article to help assure your child is being transported safely.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause for serious injury and death for Iowa children aged 1-13 years. When used properly, child safety seats are very effective protecting young children. But unfortunately, in Iowa, 9 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly. The common errors seen are children using the wrong type of seat, the LATCH/seat belts too loose, or the seat belt not being in the locked position.
When a child safety seat is installed in the vehicle, there should not be more than an inch movement side to side or front to back. Hold each side of the belt path, not the top of the seat, to test the snugness of the installation. Route the vehicle’s seat belt through the appropriate belt path of the safety seat and buckle the seat belt. By applying some body weight or pressure onto the middle of the safety seat helps get out any extra slack of the belt as it is pulled tight. If using the vehicle’s seat belt, make sure the belt is pulled completely out and switch over to the locking mode. (You will know you achieved this by allowing the belt to retract back into the vehicle and hearing a clicking sound).
If the LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tether for CHild restraints) system is used, attach the hooks properly to the anchor brackets and snug up the straps to the correct snugness.
When used properly, the vehicle’s seat belt and LATCH system are considered equally safe. Only one method of installation should be used at one time. Please note that the LATCH system does have upper weight limits. Refer to the instructions of the child safety seat to find the specified restrictions of that particular model. Note that each car seat has its own restrictions. Also, not all vehicles allow LATCH to be used in all rear seat sitting positions. The owner’s manual of the vehicle will give the information of which seating positions are LATCH compatible.
Make sure the child is properly secured and positioned within the child safety seat. The harness clip should be at armpit level and the straps should be snuggly against the child’s body when buckled. The “pinch test” is a quick way to assure there is no excess webbing within the 5 point harness system- if there is, simply snug up. There shouldn’t be any extra padding or blankets under the child or harness system as this may interfere with keeping the child properly secured by allowing movement within the safety seat in the event of a crash.
When installing a child safety seat rear faced, a semi reclined angle of 45 degrees should be achieved. This is especially important for newborn and young infants, as they have big/heavy heads and immature neck muscles, allowing the possibility of falling forward and jeopardizing their airways. Most infant carrier style car seats have an adjustable base to achieve this angle. If the base does not have this built-in adjuster, a rolled towel or foam swim noodle may be placed under the front of the base at the crack of the vehicle seat to assist in achieving the correct angle. On most child safety seats, an angle indicator is somewhere on the base or side of seat that will help determine if the seat is installed within its proper angle.
A common question is, where is the best place to install the car seat? Well, that depends on where the car seat fits the best. Usually, the center position in the back seat accommodates a child safety seat, but there are cases where that may not be possible and an alternative position must be used. Some vehicles don’t have the option of using the LATCH system in the middle position. If more than one safety seat needs to be installed in the rear seat, there may not be enough room to place the seats directly next to each other. Rear facing seats require a little extra room to install and if the driver has long legs, the back of the driver’s vehicle seat may interfere with the proper installation. Or if there is any contour to the rear seat causing a “hump” in the middle, sometimes a safety seat will not install well.
Most questions can be answered by reading the owner’s manual of the vehicle as well as the instructions of the child safety seat. The greater Des Moines area has a monthly car seat fit station on the first Thursday of the month, located at Bob Brown Chevrolet in Urbandale, from 5-7pm. If that doesn’t work with your schedule, you may also contact Kiki at 411 Safety Shop & Training (515-777-3425).
Other great resources for car seat safety include: www.nhtsa.dot.gov and www.safekids.org and www.blankchildrens.org/cps