It’s an exciting and somewhat overwhelming time. You are preparing to not only bring a child into this world, but also to transport them safely home! You’ve got all the latest gadgets and gizmos that every baby needs including the car seat. As you unbox one of the most important items your pulse starts to race. This thing has straps and pads galore! You start thinking to yourself “what on Earth are we getting into?”
Breathe easy my fellow parent, we are here to help! While installation of child safety seats may vary slightly from car seat to car seat and vehicle to vehicle there are some basic rules that apply:
Read the Instructions. Don’t try guessing how to properly install the car seat. Read the directions thoroughly and make sure you understand how to securely install the seat.
Position car seats in the back seat. This is the safest location in the car for a child to ride. NEVER place a car seat in the front portion of the car.
Reference your vehicle’s manual. Some cars have lower anchors built into the seats that can be used to attach a safety seat using the seats built in LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Older cars may not have these and require the seat belt to secure the car seat. The owner’s manual will help you find what you need. If your vehicle does have the lower anchors built in, you will need to decide on using either the seat belt or lower anchors to secure your car seat. Both are safe, but don’t use them both at the same time.
According to seatcheck.org, 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child’s safety seat is installed correctly while research shows that seven out of ten children are improperly restrained.
Avoid this common Mistake: Using the wrong anchors.
The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system allows you to attach the seat to metal rings in some cars’ rear seats without using the seat belt. But not all cars have anchors in the middle. To install your car seat in the center, make sure you’re not using the anchors for a window seat by mistake. If yours doesn’t have center anchors, use the seat belt instead.
Lock the seat belt. If your vehicle doesn’t have lower anchors, refer to your owner’s manual to find out how to lock a seat belt once the seat is in place.
Secure tightly. Once the safety seat is in place and attached with either the seat belt or lower anchors, wiggle it side to side, back and forth. It should not move more than 1 inch in any direction.
Avoid this common mistake: Not getting a tight-enough fit.
The seat shouldn’t be able to move more than an inch from side to side. When tightening the LATCH straps or seat belt, put your knee in the car seat and push down to help you pull them as tight as possible.
Adjust the recline angle. For rear-facing seats, it is important that the base of your car seat is level to prevent your child’s head from flopping forward. Most seats will have indicators on the side to help.
Connect the tether strap. Forward-facing seats have an extra strap at the top as an added safety measure. Double-check your vehicle and attach and tighten the tether strap if possible to prevent head movement in the event of a crash.
After you have followed all the directions perfectly, and you’ve checked off all the safety tips, it is important to have your installation inspected. Recent statistics show that 3 out of 4 car seats is not used or installed correctly.
Sunstar Paramedics offers monthly Car Seat safety classes. The next class is scheduled for December 14th 2017 at 12490 Ulmerton Road in Largo and it’s free! The class runs from 9:30 am – 11:00 am. Make sure to register in advance.
Below is a list of other child safety seat inspection locations for our local area (some require appointments in advance):
Oldsmar Fire Department (813) 749-1200, Contact Dave Young
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue (727) 784-0454
Sunstar Paramedics (727) 582-2090, Contact Jason Melzer or Charlene Cobb
Car Seat Safe Kids (813) 300-4251, Contact Stacy Henderlong
AAA Westshore Traffic Safety Foundation (813) 443-3074, Contact Bevin Maynard
Lealman Fire Department (727) 526-5650 Ext. 221, Contact Linda Jewell
St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital (813) 443-3074, Contact Tonya Randolph
St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital (813) 554-8510, Contact Michele Chamberlain
If you cannot afford a car seat, the Florida Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition in partnership with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital can help. If you plan to obtain a low-cost seat you must meet certain criteria and attend one of their classes, registration is required. Upcoming classes can be found by following this link: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/eventscalendar/calendar-of-events?category=CPS+Classes
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.