National Seat Check Saturday — How To Choose and Install a Child Safety Seat Correctly

child safety seat

Car crashes are a leading cause of death of children up to age 12. In 32% of the cases in 2017, the child was not restrained. When installed properly, child safety seats lower the risk of death by up to 71% in infants and booster seats reduce serious injury by 45% in children aged 4 to 8 years.

National Seat Check Saturday takes place on Sept. 21, 2019, as part of Child Passenger Safety Week. This annual event focuses on proper child safety seat installation. Read below to find out what type of car seat is right for your child and how to properly install it. 

The Types of Car Seats

There are four types of car seats designed to fit children as they grow.

Rear-facing seats (newborn up to 1-year old)

Babies are at greater risk of neck and spine injuries due to their fragile bones. In a crash, rear-facing seats are designed to cradle and move with the child to reduce the impact on the neck and spinal cord. 

Forward-facing seats (1-5 years old)

Forward-facing seats are for children 1-5 years of age or up to 40 pounds. Most forward-facing child seats feature a 5-point harness that securely straps kids in at the shoulders, hips, and crotch. 

Booster seats (5-12 years old)

Booster seats are for the in-between stage when kids are too big for the child seat but too small to use the vehicle's seat belt. These seats add height so that the seat belt can properly fit the child. Many booster seats are backless so that the child can fit against the car's back seat, making it easier to fit a seat belt over them.

All-in-one seat

This seat can change from rear-facing to forward-facing and then to a booster seat. It’s a great option if you don’t want to buy new seats as the child grows.

Choosing the Right Car Seat

Age isn’t a hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing a car seat, as children grow at different rates. Height and weight are ultimately a more precise indicator of the type of seat you should use. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) provides a calculator tool to help you find the right car seat for your child. Just put in your child’s age, height, and weight and it will tell you which seat is best. When children reach a height of 4’9” — typically around age 12 — they are ready for the seat belt

How To Install a Car Seat

It is estimated that 59% of child seats and 20% of booster seats are not installed correctly. Children are still at risk of serious injury or death in a car crash when car seats are improperly installed. Follow this four-step guide when installing a car seat.

  1. Cars manufactured after 2002 are fitted with the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). Child seats are fitted with tethers that fit into the car’s anchors. Locate the anchors and hook the tethers around it. 
  2. Push down firmly on the child seat, then pull and tighten the strap until the child seat fits snugly. The seat should not move more than one inch from side-to-side and front-to-back. 
  3. When installing a rear-facing seat, use the level indicator to make sure the seat is at an angle between 30-45 degrees.
  4. If your car doesn’t have the LATCH system, use the seat belt. Thread the seat belt through the seat belt path as indicated on the child seat and clip it into the car’s seat buckle. Push down on the child seat and pull the strap until the fit is snug.

If you are not sure if your child’s car seat is properly installed, attend a local National Seat Check Saturday event on Saturday, Sept. 21. At these events, a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician will inspect and adjust the seat for free.