Tips for Safely Installing a Child Car Seat

Car seats have made vehicles considerably safer for young children. In fact, car seats, when used correctly, can reduce the risk of death in a vehicle by as much as 71%. That’s important, seeing as road injuries are the leading cause of preventable death and injury to children in the U.S.

Unfortunately, research also shows that three out of four car seats are not installed or being used correctly. We have the tools to keep our children safe, yet many of us are not using them effectively. To ensure your child will be as safe as possible in the event of an accident, it is vital to take the time to install and use your child’s car seat correctly.

Here are 7 steps for safely installing a car seat in your vehicle:

  1. Read the car seat manual. We know, no one wants to read the manual. When you get a new phone, laptop, car—the first thing you want to do is take off running with it. Slowing down to read the directions is boring. But when it comes to car seats, reading the manual is crucial. Car seats often have features owners overlook, such as the different reclining positions that are to be used in different instances. Manuals will also include important warnings you don’t want to overlook.
  2. Check your vehicle manual for car seat installation information. Vehicles manufactured after September 2002 are required to be equipped with LATCH anchors, compatible with the LATCH systems used in modern car seats. Your vehicle manual should show you where these anchors are located in your car, and how to utilize them properly to ensure your child’s safety. It should also show you how to install a car seat using a seat belt, as an alternative to the LATCH system.
  3. Pick a location for the car seat. You should choose a location in the car that optimizes your child’s safety. Statistics show the middle back seat to be the safest spot by a slight margin, but sometimes the middle seat is not a workable position. Physical limitations might prevent you from securing your child into the middle seat, and people with multiple children might not be able to fit a car seat in the middle. The most important thing is to have the seat securely in place in the back seat of the car. The front seat is NEVER a safe place for children in car seats. Also, note that if you decide to put the car seat in the middle, some vehicles do not have LATCH anchors intended for the middle seat. Refer to your vehicle’s manual to determine whether this is the case for your vehicle. If there are no designated anchors for the middle seat, you must use the seat belt instead of the LATCH system. It is not safe to use the anchors intended for the side seats if you are securing the car seat in the middle seat.
  4. Make sure the seat is facing the correct way. Children should be in a rear-facing car seat until they surpass the height and weight limits for the rear-facing seat. The car seat manual will have this information listed. California law requires that children remain rear-facing until at least age 2, unless they are taller than 40 inches or weigh more than 40 pounds.
  5. Make sure the seat is at the correct angle. The vehicle manual will tell you which recline position the seat should be in, depending on whether it is rear or forward-facing. Most modern car seats are equipped with a level that indicates whether the seat is reclined properly.
  6. Ensure the car seat is tightly secured to the seat. Whether you are using the LATCH tethers or the seat belt, pull the belt as tight as possible, so there is no slack. The car seat should not move more than one inch forward, backward or side-to-side. If it is moving more than that, you will need to tighten it more. It can help to put pressure on the seat with your body while pulling the strap tight. If you are still having difficulties, ask someone to assist you in tightening the seat.
  7. Have your worked checked by the experts. There are a number of organizations that will perform a car seat check for free. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) will inspect your car seat installation, so give your local office a call if you would like to set up an inspection. Safe Kids, a nonprofit organization, also hosts events including car seat checkups and educational workshops. Don’t hesitate to have a professional inspect your car seat. They know exactly what to look for and will ensure your car seat is properly protecting your child.

“It is a shame that so many car seats are not being used properly. Car seats that are used correctly save lives, so it is vital that parents commit to installing their children’s car seats properly,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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