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Make sure you’re prepared for any trip with a car seat that is used and installed properly. Keep your child safe on every ride with these tips.
- Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your car seat. Here’s a quick car seat checklist to help you out. It takes only 15 minutes. If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions or concerns, certified child passenger safety technicians are able to help or even double check your work.
- Learn how to install your car seat for free. Safe Kids hosts car seat inspection events across the country where certified technicians can help make sure your car seat is properly installed. They will teach you so that you can always be sure your car seat is used correctly. Find a Safe Kids car seat checkup event near you.
- For the best protection, keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible – usually until about 2 years old. You can find the exact height and weight limit on the side or back of your car seat. Kids who ride in rear-facing seats have the maximum protection for the head, neck and spine.
- When your children outgrow a rear-facing seat around age 2, move them to a forward-facing car seat. Keep the seat in the back and make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors. Use the top tether until your child weighs 40 pounds. Check your vehicle manual to see if you can go beyond that weight limit for the top tether.
- Kids can remain in some forward-facing car seats until they’re 65 to 80 pounds, depending on the car seat limits. Check the seat label to find the exact measurements. Discontinue use of the LATCH system when your child reaches about 40 pounds. Not to worry: At that time you will switch to a seat belt that goes through the car seat.
- Inch Test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
- Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). With the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.
- For both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats, use either the car’s seat belt or the LATCH system to lock the car seat in place. Don’t use both at the same time.
- Toys can injure your child in a crash so be extra careful to choose ones that are soft and will not hurt your kid. A small, loose toy can be dangerous and injure your baby in a crash. Secure loose objects and toys to protect everyone in the car.
- Look at the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Your car seat has an expiration date – usually around six years. Find and double check the label to make sure it’s still safe.
- Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. That means you must buy it from someone you know, not from a thrift store or over the Internet. Once a car seat has been in a crash, it needs to be replaced.