Keeping the kids safe is often the number one consideration for young families when researching new vehicles. Thats why high crash test ratings are so important to car makers; they translate directly to increased sales. But as consumer, high crash test ratings aren’t the sole factor. Just as important is how you use your car safety seats. The question is: how do you use car seats effectively?
American Academy of Pediatrics
First, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests you use a car safety seat rear-facing past the age of one. Studies have shown that children who are riding in rear-facing car seats are five times safer. From age four to age seven, however, you should keep them in a forward-facing seat unless their height and weight calls for early graduation to a booster seat. Booster seats should be used to twelve years of age, or until your child is 4’8” in height.
As of 2002, every car sold in the United States has needed to be equipped with multiple rear-seat Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children systems (LATCH). However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that about one-third of parents will still use the LATCH system ineffectively! This obviously is a big concern.
You’ll want to use either the LATCH system or the seat belt method to secure your car seat, never both at once. While IIHS crash tests have shown that the center of the rear seat is the safest position for car seats, many vehicles still only build their LATCH system into either the left or right seats. It’s always worth learning about the seat belt securing method, as certain vehicles only suggest the LATCH system to be used up until your child and car seat together reach a weight of 65 pounds.
Next, you’ll want to adjust your seat’s straps properly. Both harness and tether straps should be snug enough to slip a finger under, with about a quarter-inch space recommended. Children’s backs should be flush to the back of the car seat with the chest strap sitting level with their armpits. All straps should lie flat, as well, without any twists or knots.
Hire a Car Seat Professional
Car seats are complicated. Zeigler Ford (North Riverside, Il) reminds us that there are Child Passenger Safety technicians and instructors who you can consult or hire to correctly install your child’s safety seat! Research your child’s safety seat just as closely as you research the overall safety ratings of your next car to ensure your kids get the most protection you can supply while out on a drive.