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How to Make Your Child’s Car Seat as Safe as Possible

Even when your child is sitting in a best infant car seat, there is still the potential for injury if you do not follow some safety rules. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3 out of 4 car seats are not used correctly. Here are some common, yet dangerous, mistakes parents may make when putting their baby or child in a car seat, and how to make sure your child is safe in her car seat.

evenflo infant car seat

Graco FastAction Fold Click Connect Travel System in Rollins Baby Stroller and Car Seat
Graco FastAction Fold Click Connect Travel System in Rollins Baby Stroller and Car Seat


Car seats can sometimes be confusing to set up. Make sure you read the instructions very carefully. If you are unsure if you have set up your car seat properly, your neighborhood probably has places where you can get your car seat installed in your car for you. LATCH clips eliminate a lot of the confusion and room for error when installing your car seat. Most cars manufactured after September 2002 have LATCH tethers. If your car has them, you can use the LATCH installation rather than the seat belt installation method, unless your child is over the weight limit for the LATCH system (check your car manual to find out what this limit is.)

Loose or Twisted Straps

It’s important to make sure your child’s car seat belt straps are on tight enough. After putting on your child’s seat belt, make sure you can fit only one or two fingers in between the belt and your child. If you can fit more than two fingers, tighten the straps. If you can’t fit a finger in, you can loosen the straps a little to make your child more comfortable. In addition, your baby or child shouldn’t wear puffy coats in car seats since it will interfere with proper harnessing. If it’s cold out, dress your child in layers, and take off the top layer(s) while your child is in her car seat. You can also find a warm winter coat that is not puffy. Also, make sure the harness straps are straight and not twisted in any way.

Chest Clip Positioning

The position of the chest clip on your child’s seat belt is important. If it is too low, a baby or child could fall out of the car seat in the event of an accident where your car flips over. The chest clip should be at your baby or child’s armpit level.

Harness Strap Location

The position of the harness straps is also important. For an infant car seat, the straps should be at or just below your child’s shoulders. For a rear facing convertible car seat, the straps should be at or just below your child’s shoulders. For a forward-facing convertible car seat, the harness straps should be at or just above your child’s shoulder level.

Older Car Seats

Many people like to save money by using the same car seat with their next child. This should be fine in some cases, but it’s important to make sure of a few things. First, check the manufacturer’s website to make sure the car seat was not recalled for any reason. Second, check the manufacture date on the car seat. Car seats have a limit on how many years they are useable for, some as low as 5 years from the manufacture date. Next make sure the car seat doesn’t have any cracks or other damage that occurred while it was stored away. Finally, make sure you still have the instructions for the car seat (if not, you can usually find them online at the manufacturer’s website.) Check them when installing the car seat, even if you think you remember how to install it.

If you are in an Accident

If you get into an accident with your car seat in the car, you need to get a new one. You have to get rid of the car seat even if there is no obvious damage to it. Some car seats have an indicator such as a sticker that, if broken, means the car seat is no longer safe to be used. Contact the manufacturer of your car seat and ask if they would like you to send them the car seat. Sometimes they can use it for accident research purposes to improve on future models, and they may offer you a discount on purchasing a new car seat.


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Infant Car Seats: Higher Price Doesn’t Ensure Increased Safety

For some parents, price is no object when making purchases for their children, especially when it comes to safety gear such as infant car seat reviews. Infant car seats can be a costly purchase, with prices starting at $60 and often costing well over $100. Well-meaning parents think that the more expensive infant car seats will provide a higher level of protection for their child; however, a February 2007 Consumer Reports test shows that the higher price models don’t always perform as well as the more moderately priced car seats (note that Consumer Reports does plan to do some additional testing to confirm these results – the below results reflect their testing as of Janurary 2007).

evenflo infant car seat

Armadillo Stroller

Armadillo Stroller

As background, when the federal government tests infant car seats, it ensures that they can survive a 30 mph frontal crash. Consumer Reports decided to go a step further and determine whether the car seats would be able to withhold crashes at both higher speeds and with side-impacts. Tests were completed with infant car seats installed using both the automobile’s seat belt system and by using LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), the federally mandated installation system. According to Consumer Reports, the only infant car seats which passed their tests using both methods were the Baby Trend Flex-Loc Adjustable Back seat and the Graco Snugride with EPS seat. The retail price for each of these seats is $90, well below the price of others that only passed using the vehicle safety belt system. More expensive infant car seats that did not pass all of the Consumer Reports tests include the popular Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (priced at $230), the Britax Companion (priced at $190) and the Eddie Bauer Comfort (now discontinued, but was priced at $200). The cheapest model of the grouping, the Evenflo Discovery (priced at $60) failed all aspects of testing and was deemed “not acceptable” by Consumer Reports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees that a higher priced infant car seat does not necessarily guarantee more protection for the child. On its website, the AAP states that “all car safety seats available for purchase in the United States must meet very strict safety standards established and maintained by the federal government” and suggests that more expensive infant car seats have more features such as headrests or detachable bases that may or may not improve the seat safety. Indeed, when parents rate infant car seats on websites such as Amazon or Babies ‘R Us, they often focus on the way that the car seat looks instead of whether or it seems to be safer for their child. In the future, parents will want to consider that more expensive infant car seats do not necessarily provide more protection for their child.


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Install a Car Seat Correctly: Save a Child

A Car Seat Won’t Save Your Child Unless It’s Installed Correctly

Last week, a little 6-year-old child died in a single vehicle accident from severe head trauma. News reports state that the evenflo infant car seat was not installed correctly. The report was quick to also mention that it had not been determined if the car seat installation was a factor in her death, but it brings up a good question. Do you have your child’s car seat installed correctly?

evenflo infant car seat

Traveling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory
Traveling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory

This article is going to focus on infant and toddler car seats as opposed to booster seats for older children.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “car crashes are the number killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States.” One of the ways to protect children, besides choosing the right car seat for their age and size, is to make sure that the car seats are installed properly. And that’s not always easy.

As many as 3 out of 4 car seats are not used correctly. That’s according to Parents Central. Some of that is due to parents not realizing how a correctly installed car seat looks and feels. And some of that comes from the frustration in getting that car seat in there tightly. Personally, it was one of the most frustrating things I ever had to do, and I dreaded doing it each time. Putting a car seat in correctly is not as simple as putting the seat in the car and securing it with a seatbelt or latch system. A correctly installed car seat should not budge even after a good hard shove. It should be practically immobile.

DMV.org states, “If you can move any strap, harness, or the entire seat itself more than an inch, then you probably need to put some more elbow grease into pulling the seat belt or ensuring the straps are appropriately taut.” One of the things parents need to do is put as much downward pressure on the seat as they are securing it. While Parent Control offers directions on how to install car seats, DMV.og offers tips to make that installation successful.

As a parent, I tried many of those techniques. Which ones worked depended on the make and model of the car. Often, my husband and I had to allow anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes to put the seat in correctly. However, all the frustration was worth it because we had peace of mind that we did all we could to keep them safe while in the car.

If you need the help, it’s there. NHTSA offers a page that helps you locate a child car seat inspection station: Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator. One of my friends, after speaking to me, made an appointment with the state police, and they took the time to look at her installation and showed her how it needed to be. These guys were professionals, and it took quite a bit of time and effort because of the design of her car. She was amazed at the difficulty, but when it was over, she realized how much more secure and safe her daughter was in the car.


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