Tips for Using a Child Safety Seat
It is important to choose a seat that is right for the size and age of your child and for your vehicle. Use caution with second-hand child safety seats as they may not be able to withstand a crash, may have been recalled or could be missing key components.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eight out of every 10 child safety seats are not used correctly. Keep in mind that a child safety seat must be secured as tightly as possible with the vehicle's safety belt or lower anchor and tethers for children (LATCH) system to ensure protection in a crash or sudden stop.
When using a child safety seat:
- Thread and anchor all harness straps to the child safety seat before use;
- Adjust the retainer clip so that it is at armpit level of the child's body;
- Harness straps should be flat or untwisted and adjusted snugly so you cannot pinch any slack;
- Lap belt should be fitted low and snugly across the child's hips – not across the stomach;
- Shoulder belts should not come across the child's face or neck. Never place the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind its back.
Common mistakes of child safety seat installation:
- Not using the right child safety seats for a child's size and age;
- Not placing the child safety seat in the correct direction;
- Incorrectly installing the child safety seat in relation to the vehicle's air bags;
- Incorrect installation and secureness of the child safety seat to the vehicle seat;
- Not securing/tightening the child safety seat's harness and crotch straps;
- Improper use of locking clips for certain vehicle safety belts;
- Improper fit of seat belts on children using a booster seat;
- Use of a defective or broken child safety seat.
There are three types of booster seats: High-back, Backless and Combination
- A backless booster should only be used if you have a built-in headrest or seatback in your vehicle that reaches above your child’s ears.
- Combination seats have a harness that can be used with young children, then removed for the seat to be used as a booster as the child grows.
- Booster seats must never be used with only the lap belt or with a shoulder belt placed behind a child's back or under a child's arm.
Children between the ages of 8 and 12 should be kept in a booster seat until they are big enough for a seat belt to properly protect them. Use the following illustration to determine whether a child is big enough to use a seat belt properly.
For a seat belt to fit properly:
- The lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach.
- The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.
Even if your child is big enough to use a seat belt, it is still recommended that the child sit in the rear seat.
Frequently check the condition of the seat and make sure of the following:
- The straps are not frayed or discolored and the webbing is free of wear;
- The buckles operate properly;
- The seat is free of cracks, bends and loose bolts and all necessary parts are included.
Other Resources for Tips on Child Passenger Safety
If you are a childcare provider, visit the Bright Start website and sign up for email updates.