Car seats are not set-it-and-forget-it: There are adjustments to make as your child grows to make sure they stay safe through the years. Nellie Martinez, child passenger safety technician with Renown’s Car Seat Fitting Station, shares the tips all parents and caregivers need to know.
What is the most common mistake you see when it comes to car seat installations?
For all ages, the height and tightness of the harness are very important. Multiple layers of clothing can make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. You need to remove any bulky clothing and blankets and do the “pinch test.” This is especially important in the winter when children are wearing coats to and from the car.
The harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear facing and at or above their shoulders when forward facing. Once you buckle and tighten the harness, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you can’t pinch any excess, that’s a good sign.
When can a child switch to a forward-facing seat?
The general rule is kids should remain rear facing until 2 years old or until they reach the maximum weight of their specific car seat. This weight requirement can vary, so be sure to check your individual car seat for specifics.
Waiting until age 2 may seem a bit odd because many kids have gotten taller and their legs are longer. But in reality, even if their legs stretch out the chance of injury in a rear-facing car seat is much lower.
When your child turns 2, you can turn them forward facing until at least 4 years old or once they hit their seat’s weight limit — typically 35 to 40 pounds. Between 50 and 65 pounds, your car seat should specify when you can change from the harness strap to a regular car seat belt.
Where is the safest place to install a car seat?
The safest place is in the back seat, away from any airbags. If a child’s car seat is placed near an airbag and the air bag inflates, it could hit the back of a rear-facing car seat or hit a child who is forward facing and cause serious harm. It’s also recommended to install a car seat in the middle seat, if possible, to lessen the chance of injury during a crash.
How can I get my car seat checked?
You can make an appointment at the Car Seat Safety Station Monday through Friday, except holidays, between 8-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.