Do's and Don'ts of Child Car Seat Safety

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September 21, 2017

Did you know that improperly installed car seats are a huge danger to your child? According to a study by the Journal of Pediatrics, 20 percent of children involved in a fatal crash were unrestrained or inappropriately restrained at the time of the crash.

We teamed with officer Brian Miller of the Auburn Hills Police Department to learn about car seat safety.

Here are some of the most common mistakes he’s noticed when people purchase, install and maintain car seats:
  1. Not Utilizing the Top Tether: Many people do not use the top tether for their forward-facing car seats. This is arguably one of the most important attachment points, as it will minimize whiplash in the event of a crash.
  2. Adding Aftermarket Items to Car Seats: Car seat manufacturers and recommend no aftermarket, non-approved accessories (such as mirrors, belt cushions, seat covers) be added to car seats.
  3. Having Loose Items in the Vehicle and Near the Car Seat: In the event of a crash, all items that are loose and in the vehicle will be traveling at the speed the vehicle was previously going. Essentially, this makes them projectiles that could harm children and other occupants in the vehicle.  Even your dog in a seat could become a projectile.
  4. Seats that are the Wrong Size, Used or Expired: All seats have the maximum weight restrictions of the seat printed on the size. Do not exceed this weight – it could be time for a new seat. Also be cautious of used seats where the history is unknown. Seats that have been in a prior crash should be replaced. Last, did you know seats expire? Most last six years. Beyond that timeframe, the safety of the seat cannot be guaranteed.
How do you know if your car seat has been installed correctly? The best answer is to get it checked by a certified car seat inspector. In the meantime, here are a few useful tips from SafeKids.Org:
Is it the right seat?
Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Like milk, your car seat has an expiration date. Just double check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
Is it installed in the right place?
Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are big enough to ride without a booster seat.
Are they facing the right direction?
You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, usually until around age 2. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
Perform the inch test.
Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base where the seat belt fits. 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.
Perform the pinch test.
Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your car seat manual). Now, 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.
If you’re still uncertain, visit to find a car seat inspection spot near you.
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