How To Properly Mount A Car Seat
As a parent, ensuring your infant’s safety is of the utmost priority. Purchasing a car seat is a direct means to that end, keeping your child safe and securely fastened while your vehicle is in motion. However, selecting and installing the correct type of car seat for your child isn’t quite as self-explanatory as you might at first think. Depending on your child’s age and height, there are a variety of car seat types and sizes to choose from.
Selecting the wrong size or improperly installing and mounting your child’s seat can inadvertently pose a threat to your child’s life. In an effort to prevent such incidents and educate new parents, here’s an exhaustive breakdown of the do’s and don’ts behind installing a car seat and shopping for the right fit and model for your child.
What Type of Car Seat is Best For Your Child?
It can come as quite a surprise for first-time parents and caregivers just how involved a decision it is choosing the right car seat that’s appropriate for your child’s needs. Far from being a one-and-done purchase, car seats are meant to be upgraded and replaced alongside a child’s maturation from infancy into early adolescence. Different car seats prioritize different age groups and have different methods of installation, so it’s important to thoroughly research which seat offers the protection your child needs before committing to a purchase.
According to safercar.gov, There are three distinct types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. Rear-facing seats are the first type of car seats parents are intended to use, designed for children under the age of one to three years of age. These are built to protect the child while the resistance of their skeletal structure is still growing while diffusing the most impact from any potential car collisions. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Forward-facing seats, perhaps the most recognizable to casual observers, offer more flexibility and are intended for children ages three to seven. Booster seats are the last form of safety seat builds, intended for children anywhere between the ages of four and twelve years old. Out of these three types are multiple sub-groups and variations, each one emphasizing a different degree of safety, flexibility, and comfort. Infant car seats are rear-facing only, while convertible and all-in-one seats offer customizability and convenience that adapts as your child’s needs change at the cost of a higher price. Booster seats come in either high back or backless builds and offer different variable setups in which to incorporate your vehicle’s seatbelts.
A majority of prominent early childhood development experts, particularly The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention, testify to the benefits of rear-facing child safety seats and recommend keeping your child secured to one even beyond the recommended age of two years old, so long as they still fit. The choice, however, ultimately falls to the parent concerning what if any precautions they would prefer in safely transporting their infant. Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions before attempting installation and carefully read the vehicle owner’s manual with regards to how to properly install a car seat using the seat’s anchors and tether or the vehicle’s seat belts.
How To Install A Car Seat
According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), close to 75% of all child safety seats are installed incorrectly. This estimate yields disastrous outcomes, accounting for a disproportionate spike in infant mortality rates despite the best intentions of parents and caregivers. The majority of these tragedies could be easily preempted if only through proper education and instruction. The installation methods between rear-facing and forward-facing car seats can be tricky and cumbersome. However, here are a few essential pieces of advice in how to properly shop for and install child safety seats.
The first and most crucial step to correctly installing a car seat is to thoroughly read the manufacturer’s car seat installation manual. It’s not uncommon for parents, frantic in the hustle bustle of shepherding their children, to choose to intuit the installation of a car seat rather than consult the manufacturer's approved instructions. To repeat, the importance of this step absolutely cannot be overstated. Your child’s safety is of paramount importance to you, and a careful five-minute read of the instruction manual is a small price when compared to the assurance of your child’s well-being. Make sure to pay ample attention to the instructions pertaining to seatbelt/latch installation.
Second step is to consult your vehicle’s manufacturer manual along with your car seat manual. Not every car seat is ready-made compatible with every make and model of vehicle, so it’s important to be able to refer to both while mounting your car seat. Third step is decide on the position of your car seat. The consensus across multiple car seat manufacturers and early childhood experts, including whattoexpect.com, the safest place to set up your child’s seat is in the middle row of the backseat, barring any incompatible obstructions you might discover in the course of installation.
Fourth step is to decide whether to secure your car seat with seat belts or LATCH. For those that don’t know, LATCH is an acronym for ‘Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children’, a proprietary attachment system for securing car seats to any vehicle interior regardless of make or model. All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight includes car seat and child), so parents should check the car seat manufacturer's recommendations for maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors. Experts attest to the safety of either method regardless of preference, though it is important to choose one and stick with it. The ease of installation between the two methods will vary depending on the car seat you’re trying to install. The fifth and final step is to check that the seat is firmly anchored and that the child’s harness strap fit is taut yet comfortably secure. A reliable method of testing this is through the so-called ‘pinch test’, demonstrated here via Parents.com’s helpful safety check guide for expectant parents. Finally, there a number of specialists and professionals you can turn to for the easy installation of your car seat, including your local fire station officers and CPS-certified car seat technicians employed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Childrearing, let alone learning about safety car seats, can be a daunting exercise with a lot to learn and a lot of initial assumptions to dispel, but we hope this practical summary of the options and methods behind car seat installation will go a long way to helping you ensure your child’s safety while in transit.
If you require help in installation, fire station personnel are specially trained in installing children's car seats. Click the above to local your nearest fire station!