Car seat safety for our kids is incredibly necessary -- and it's really essential you read the manual and do everything properly and not leave anything to chance. While it's ideal to have the car seat installed by a certified expert when possible, most of us don't. We're too busy, too rushed, or too certain that we know how to do it ourselves. In fact, Allana Pinkerton, Global Safety Advocate for Diono, says that when parents come in for a car seat check, at least 80 percent of them are installed wrong!
However, if you've only got ten minutes right now, and you want to check to make sure of one thing that might be wrong with your car seat, experts highly suggest you check that the car seat has a tight fit inside the car. Ideally, this would be done every time you put your child in the car seat.
"Different types of seatbelts have different ways of locking, and they can become loose over time," says Pinkerton told us. "Having that seat installed tightly is very important." This goes for car seats using the Latch belt too.
So go to your car seat and check that the fit is tight enough. Here's how:
1. Use your upper body weight to push into the car seat. Place your hands, one on each side of the seat, at the belt path.
2. Pull the car seat from side to side.
3. If it slides more than an inch in either direction (it's okay to eyeball it, no need to break out the ruler) then it is too loose. If it does not move at all, then that's fine!
How to tighten it:
1. Push your arm or hand into the car seat.
2. Use your upper body weight to push into the car seat.
3. Tighten the seat belt or the Latch belt.
4. Do NOT do this with a child in the seat.
5. Make sure the seat belt is in a locked position while you do this.
Another reason the seat might not be locked in safe is that sometimes passengers can accidentally unbuckle the car seat by mistake when they reach for their own, so be sure to check that as well.
Why is a tight fit so important?
Says Gina Duchossois, Supervisor of Kohl's Injury Prevention Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: "The goal of a tight fit is to minimize movement. If the car seat is not tight in the vehicle or the harness is not tight on the child, then you may have more movement of both the car seat and child, which increases injury risk to the child."
A tight fit is important for every type of car seat, from infant, to convertible, to booster. As Julie Vallese, Consumer Safety Expert for Dorel Juvenile Group, says: "If I had a short period to tell a parent or caregiver what to focus on, I would say 'Its fit.' How does that car seat fit your child, fit your car, fit your life, fit your ability to use it correctly every time?"
So did you check? Was yours in right?
And check out our special giveaway of a Chicco NextFit Convertible car seat!
Image via Whisson/Jordan/Corbis/Video via Safety1st/YouTube