The responsibilities that come with parenthood can be overwhelming at times. There are so many different things to learn and frequently, when you feel like you’ve finally mastered one thing, something changes, and you need to re-learn it.
Protecting your child in the car is one of the many things that we parents must learn how to do. Most of us get in and out of the car multiple times a day. It is a mundane task, so we take it for granted, forgetting that there are inherent risks in and around the car. Parents today have busy lives and countless things to do and remember. We are usually running around, trying desperately to get from Point A to Point B safely and on time. It’s easy to forget the many risks we face each time we climb into the car. The fact however, remains that car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Most parents feel like their child is in the correct car seat and that their car seat is installed and used correctly, but one study has shown a misuse rate of as high as 92%¹.
While I certainly can’t cover everything there is to know about child passenger safety in one brief article, I’m going to share some basic tips which are easy to implement right now. Please contact me if you have further questions or would like to schedule an appointment to have your child’s car seat or booster checked.
1) Harness Placement
When a child is rear facing, the harness (car seat straps) should be coming out of the car seat directly at, or below the child’s shoulders. (Remember, a child should be rear facing until they are at least two years old.)
When a child is forward facing, the harness should be coming from at or above a child’s shoulders. (Remember, a child should be harnessed until they are at least five years old.)
2) Pinch Test
Ensure that the harness is flat and straight, with no twists , and then remove all of the slack . Pay special attention to ensure that there’s no slack “hiding” down by the child’s hips. The harness will be snug enough when it passes “the pinch test,” meaning that you’re unable to pinch a fold in the harness at the child’s shoulders/collarbone.
3) Chest Clip Placement
The harness retainer clip (more commonly referred to as the chest clip) should always be directly on top of the child’s sternum (breast bone). The top of it should be aligned with the child’s armpits.
4) Inch Test
The proper way check that the car seat is installed tightly, is is to grab the seat directly, and only at the belt path, and give it a wiggle with about the same force as you’d use in a firm handshake. The car seat should not move more than 1” in any direction at the belt path. (If the seat is installed rear facing, the belt path will be under the child’s feet/lower legs. If the car seat is installed forward facing, the belt path will be behind the child’s back.) Remember—if the car seat is forward facing, you’ll also want to secure the tether strap to the designated tether anchor for that seating position, and remove all of the slack from the tether strap.
5) Read Your Manuals
Your child’s safety seat can’t do its job if it’s not used correctly. Every car seat will have different rules for how and when to make adjustments to the harness, buckle, padding, etc. The manual will tell you precisely how to install the safety seat depending on the vehicle, the location in the vehicle the weight of the child. It is critical to read the manual for your child’s seat as well as the child safety seat section in your vehicle’s manual. I strongly recommend re-reading your manual periodically, especially when you need to uninstall, clean, make adjustments or reinstall the seat. If you’re confused about something, you can reach out to a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) such as myself for clarification, or to the car seat manufacturer.
While there are many things to be aware of and to learn, my job as a CPST is to help you keep your child safe. Nothing makes me happier than helping caregivers feel empowered in their abilities to do that. I offer a variety of services to assist in every aspect of this journey. Super Car Seat Geek’s exclusive Concierge Service will help pair you with the very best car seat options for your particular child, vehicle and budget. Since the right seat is only a fraction of the equation, a private Car Seat Check will ensure that you understand how to install and use your child’s seat correctly every time they get buckled up.
If you have questions or would like to set up a Concierge Service session, or a private Seat Check, please contact me at facebook.com/SuperCarSeatGeek or email me at SuperCarSeatGeek@gmail.com