Despite the many laws regarding car seats and seat belts, there are still needless fatalities of children in car crashes. A recent study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that 43% of children who died in a car accident either were improperly restrained or not restrained at all.
As certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), we are often asked, “which is the SAFEST seat for my child?” and the truth is that the best and safest seat is one that is appropriate for your child’s height and weight, fits your vehicle correctly, is installed properly, and is used properly, EVERY time they travel in the car. From the least to most expensive car seat, EVERY car seat sold in the United States must pass crash tests designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some seats are easier to install than others, so don’t just go on recommendations from friends or the internet – visit a retailer and test out a seat’s features before purchasing and make sure the seat will fit in your car properly, once installed.
To ensure you have your child in the correct seat for their age and height, please consult our Car Seat Safety 101 guide and watch our installation video to ensure your car seat is installed correctly. Then use this quick checklist to ensure your child is properly restrained before heading out:
1) HARNESS HEIGHT: In a rear-facing infant or convertible seat, the harness straps should be at or just below their shoulders. In a forward-facing convertible seat, the harness straps should be at or just above their shoulders.
2) HARNESS TIGHTNESS: When buckled, you should not be able to pinch more than one inch of the harness, vertically, between two fingers.
3) CHEST CLIP: The chest clip should be positioned at the child’s armpit level.
4) HEIGHT OF HEADREST: In rear-facing infant and convertible seats, there should be at least an inch from the top of the car seat to the top of their head. In a forward-facing convertible seat, the tops of their ears should not be above the top of the car seat shell or head restraint.
5) CROTCH BUCKLE: Many car seats have multiple slots for the crotch buckle to accommodate growing kids. With small newborns, an infant insert or small rolled blanket should help make sure there is no excess space between the body and the crotch buckle. As your kiddo grows, they may be more comfortable if the crotch buckle is snug FRONT of their body, not under it.
Still unsure? Contact Tot Squad and our team of certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians can show you how to properly install your seat or check your installation handiwork. We have locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City and Washington DC, as well as 200 affiliate CPSTs around the country in over 40 states. You can also look for installation assistance on safercar.gov.