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Keep Kids Safe – Answers to Frequently Asked Car Seat Questions

Hospital news | Monday, September 9, 2019

Prairie du Chien, WI - Installing a car seat seems like a simple task. However, Safe Kids Worldwide estimates that 3 out of 4 car seats are not used correctly. That puts millions of kids in danger while they’re on the road. To keep kids safe in their car seats, Car Seat Safety Technicians will be available at the Livin’ Well Wellness Fair at Crossing Rivers Health on Saturday, September 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Appointments for that day can be made by calling 608.326.0229. In addition, Crossing Rivers Health proudly provides free car seat safety checks by appointment. Appointments can be made at crossingrivers.org/carseatsafetycheck.

Here are 10 frequently asked questions and answers to ensure kids are riding safely.

1. HOW TO SELECT THE APPROPRIATE CAR SEAT OR BOOSTER SEAT

The best seat is one that:

  • Fits the child’s age, size, and developmental levels.
  • Fits the vehicle.
  • The caregiver will use correctly each time.

Types of seats:

  • Rear-facing car seat: While many state laws still say the minimum is one year and 20 pounds, the American Academy of Pediatrics has finally made more known their recommendation to keep children rear-facing for as long as possible – but at least until they are 2.
  • Forward-facing car seat: Children must ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they are four years old and weigh 40 pounds.
  • Booster seat: Children must ride in a booster seat until they are 8 years old or weigh 80 pounds or are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
  • Seat belt: Children must be restrained in a seat belt when they outgrow the requirements of a booster seat.
  • Back seat: Children under the age of 13 are safest in the back seat.

2. CAN THE LATCH SYSTEM BE USED?

Nearly all passenger vehicles and car safety seats made after Sept. 1, 2002, have a system called LATCH. This stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Vehicles with the LATCH system have lower anchors built into the back seat and a tether anchor behind the seat. Car seats have straps that connect to the anchors. If the LATCH system is used, seat belts should not be used to secure the car seat.

3. IS THE TOP TETHER FASTENED?

Forward-facing child car seats have a top tether. See the vehicle owner’s manual to find where the tether anchors are located. The top tether is a strap that connects the top of a forward-facing car seat to an anchor spot in the vehicle. Tethers keep the top of the car seat from lurching too far forward in a crash or sudden stop. This helps protect the child’s head and neck.

4. IF A VEHICLE DOESN’T HAVE THE LATCH SYSTEM, HOW ARE SEAT BELTS USED PROPERLY?

When seat belts are used to install a car seat, they must be routed through the correct path on the car seat and locked. To determine how to lock the seat belts, check the vehicle owner's manual. The belt path may differ from model to model. Check the seat’s instruction manual to make sure it’s being done correctly.

5. IS THE CAR SEAT TIGHT?

If the seat can be moved more than 1 inch from side to side or 1 inch from front to back at the belt path, it’s not tight enough. When installing, the car seat may need to be pressed down firmly to cinch the belts or the LATCH anchors tight enough.

6. IS THE SEAT ANGLED PROPERLY?

This is important for babies who ride in rear-facing seats. The correct angle helps keep their heads from flopping forward. This protects the child’s neck and head. Many car seats have angle indicators or adjusters that help you get the right angle. If the car seat instructions allow it, properly angle the car seat by putting additional padding under the car seat base, where the back and bottom of the vehicle seat meet.

7. IS THE CHILD BUCKLED IN PROPERLY?

When buckling a child into the seat, make sure the child is all the way back in the seat. Once buckled, assure straps are tight enough by performing the pinch test at the hips and the shoulders of the child. There should not be excess strap at the shoulder or hip once the harness is buckled. Place the chest clip at armpit level to keep the harness straps on the shoulder.

8. IS THE BOOSTER SEAT BEING USED CORRECTLY?

Booster seats lift kids up so that seat belt is in the right spot. Once buckled, assure straps are tight enough by performing the pinch test at the hips and the shoulders of the child. There should not be excess strap at the shoulder or hip once the harness is buckled. Place the chest clip at armpit level to keep the harness straps on the shoulder.

When buckling kids into booster seats:

  • The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the child’s shoulder and chest, not the neck or face.
  • The lap belt should be low and snug across the upper thighs, not the stomach.
  • The shoulder strap should not be tucked under an arm or behind the child’s back.
  • Booster seats often come with a plastic guide or clip that holds the lap and shoulder belt together and helps position them properly. The vehicle owner’s manual will have directions on how to use them.

9. IS THE CAR SEAT REGISTERED?

It’s important for the manufacturer of the car seat to know how to contact individuals in case the seat is recalled. To register, fill out the form that comes with the car seat and mail it in or go to nhtsa.gov.

10. IS HELP NEEDED TO ENSURE THE SEAT IS INSTALLED PROPERLY?

Not sure if a car seat is installed correctly? Have it checked. A certified expert might find a problem that can be fixed—before an accident happens. Free car seat safety checks by a Car Seat Safety Technician are available at the Livin’ Well Wellness Fair at Crossing Rivers Health on Saturday, September 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Free car seat safety checks are always available at Crossing Rivers Health and be scheduled by visiting crossingrivers.org/carseatsafetycheck.

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