Yesterday kicked off Child Passenger Safety Week in the US, an annual awareness week during which the National Highway Safety Association aims to heighten awareness around one alarming and very sobering fact: three in four car seats are improperly installed every day. Now that stat is enough to cause worry in any parent all on its own. But when you add in that car accidents are the leading cause of death for kids under 12, you can see why safety experts are so concerned.
So how do you know if your car seat is one of the many that are installed wrong? Car seat safety expert Sarah Tilton, who works closely with Britax as their Child Passenger Safety Advocacy Manager, is urging parents to memorize certain important safety tips before they hit the road.
Here are a few of her must-know tips to read (no matter how well-versed you may consider yourself):
1. Pick a car seat that fits your baby as well as your car. Also, make sure you know how to use it each and every time. (It's a good idea to go for a few test-drives before the baby even arrives.)
2. Make sure your car seat fits your growing child. Seated shoulder height is often overlooked.
3. Remember that belt-positioning boosters are only for big kids. Don't switch out of a 5-point harness early – use this easy guide to see if your child is ready.
4. Using a LATCH system? Take note of your child's weight, plus the weight of the car seat. If both exceed 65 lbs., it's time to switch to seat belt installation. (The seat's lower anchors have weight limits.)
5. A snug harness strap shouldn't allow any slack. Can you pinch the strap? That means the harness is too loose.
6. For kids 12 and under, the backseat is always the safest place to ride. Double-check your child seat and vehicle user guides for available seating positions.
7. If you've been in any accident that would rank as moderate to severe, you should toss your car seat and purchase a new one, just to be safe.
8. Never purchase a used car seat if you don't know it's history.
9. Did you know your car seat has an expiration date? It's true – check the manufacturer's tag to be sure you're in the clear.
10. After buying your car seat, don't forget to register it – either on the manufacturer's website, by mailing the registration card, or by calling their customer service department. That will keep you up-to-date on any important recall info.
Got any questions? Tilton urges all parents to swing by a certified installation center to triple-check that they've got it all right. You can look up one in your area right here.