A properly installed car seat can save your child’s life – here are tips every parent needs to know

baby in rear facing car seatWe’d like to thank Gloria Del Castillo, child passenger safety expert at Cincinnati Children’s, for this guest post.

Did you know that an alarming three out of four car seats are not installed properly? It’s shocking, but it’s true.

For some people, car seats aren’t always the easiest things to figure out – from choosing the right one to making sure the straps are tight enough. But in some situations, a properly installed seat can mean the difference between life and death in a crash.

We must do better for our children. That’s why Buckle Up for Life, a national car seat education program, teaches parents, caregivers and children about the proper use of car seats and provides free seats to families in need who participate in the program.

Below are some simple yet critical tips from Buckle Up for Life to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to hit the road with your children.

• After you’ve buckled your child into their seat, pinch the car seat strap near their shoulders. If you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug. You can see a video of this tip at this link. Then grab the car seat at the bottom where it is attached to the car and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it.

• As colder weather approaches, remember to remove your children’s coats before securing them in their car seat. A coat can prevent the harness from fitting correctly. It also could compress in a crash, compromising the seat’s ability to protect your child.

• Although it might be convenient to use a hand-me-down car seat, it’s best to purchase a new seat. A seat’s ability to protect your child may be compromised if it has been through a crash. Also, plastic can degrade over time.

• Accessories that didn’t come with the car seat likely have not been crash-tested and could be dangerous in a crash. This includes mirrors and sun shades.

• According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should remain in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat.

For more resources including the car seat installation videos and where to locate car seat inspection stations or child passenger safety technicians in your community, please visit BuckleUpForLife.org.

Gloria Del Castillo is a child passenger safety expert at Cincinnati Children’s. She is a specialist of community engagement for Buckle Up for Life, the national safety initiative from Cincinnati Children’s and Toyota. Gloria is a child educator, trauma specialist, program developer, published author, Hispanic advocate and vigilant mother.

March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.