Nov 22, 2011 Post By: Children's Health

How not to install a child's car seat
There's a lot more to making a car seat safe than just its installation. Check out these tips from our Daddy Blogger.

My wife and I are expecting our first child, a daughter, any day now.

What I’ve learned about being an expectant father in my wife’s last trimester is to contribute where I can and try not to interfere the rest of the time.

However, I have inherited a few responsibilities. Probably the most important is installing the car seat. I’m not incredibly handy, so the initial thought was a little daunting.

After all, I’d written about the masses of incorrectly installed car seats. Of all the soon-to-be fathers out there, I certainly knew how important it was to make sure that the base was in tight and the carrier was locked in place. But what I didn’t know was that the secureness of the car seat was only the beginning of car seat safety.

I learned that when my wife and I brought our cars to Children’s for a car seat safety check up. I had done my best to install the bases the weekend before and, to my surprise, they passed the specs for tightness and security. Our gracious inspector and an Injury Prevention program coordinator at Children’s, Jesus Alderete, told us so.

We did find out, however, that there was a lot more to making a car seat safe than just its installation. For example: 

1) Our car seat was behind the driver’s seat. Research has shown that the back seat is the safest location to put a car seat. However, there are many factors to consider when choosing the safest seating position. The most important factors are for the car seat to be placed where it fits the best, where it can be installed by the caregiver in the easiest way and in a position where the caregiver can easily harness the child the right way every time the child rides in the vehicle. For our car and most cars, the safest position was the middle of the back seat. Behind the driver’s seat was actually the least safe spot for the car seat in our car. 

2) We planned to put up additional stuff besides the seat. We planned to put up a mirror on the car’s back seat so we could see her face in the rearview mirror and also planned to use a window shade that pulled down from a bar. We also had put down a seat protector so the car seat base wouldn’t damage our seats. What we learned is that these types of aftermarket products are not federally regulated. Using them with a car seat when the car seat manufacturer has not crash tested them could null and void our car seat’s warranty. If parents do decide to use these products they should look for products that are made and approved for use by the car seat’s manufacturer. When choosing these products look for items made from soft lightweight materials with rounded edges. In addition, look for items that are secured with straps or anchors rather than those that simply Velcro on.

3) We left the canopy extended in the car. The manufacturer’s instructions should be consulted to see if they allow the canopy to be extended while the vehicle is in motion. Every car seat is different so be sure to always read the car seat’s manual. Our car seat manufacturer advised against leaving the canopy extended in the car.

4) The back seatbelts were unbuckled. Due to the potential for strangulation by the seat belt, when a car seat is installed using LATCH, the vehicle seat belt in that seating position (i.e. If the car seat is in the middle, the seat belt that would regularly be used to buckle in the person sitting in the middle seat) should be buckled and the retractor switched to locking mode to insure that a child cannot place it around their neck. A certified car seat technician can assist you in doing so.

Don't worry, though. If I can get it installed correctly, I promise you can. And if you have trouble, most local fire and police stations have sessions to help correctly install car seats.