The Right Car Seat – Used The Right Way
Car Seat Features to Love
Whether you are selecting your child’s first car seat or you are an experienced parent buying your child’s next car seat, here are some features that can help achieve correct use for a safe ride. Always read and follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to learn how to use all the car seat features.
Easy to Use Harness Adjustment
A snug harness correctly positioned at the shoulder keeps the child safe in their car seat during a crash. Height adjustment is easy with a no re-thread harness. Some systems can easily adjust by squeezing the button on a headrest and sliding the attached harness to the right shoulder spot. If you must adjust the harness height by changing the harness slot in the car seat back, check that the harness is routed through the matching slots in the padding and the car seat shell. Sometimes harness adjustment mistakes are made when changing the harness slot height as the child grows.
Buckle Strap Adjustment
More car seat manufacturers are providing additional buckle adjustment slots for better hip room. Height is not the only problem in fitting a car seat harness. If there are multiple buckle strap positions, the buckle strap should be in the slot close to but not under the child’s body. Check the car seat instructions for information on how to move the buckle strap into the correct position. Some buckle straps can be shortened to provide a better fit for the child. Adjusting the buckle position helps to attain a more comfortable and safe fit of the harness.
Installing a Car Seat with the Vehicle Seat Belt
Seat Belt Lock-Off: There are a number of car seat manufacturers that offer a lock-off system on the car seat to maintain a fixed length of the lap and shoulder belt. Lock-offs may look different, but are safe to use when the car seat manufacturers instructions are followed. A lock-off makes it easier for parents to install a car seat and takes the guess work out of what type of seat belt is in the vehicle and how to get the seat belt to lock. The car seat manufacturer may provide guidance for when a lock-off cannot be used or if it is permissible to lock the seat belt when using the lock-off.
Installing a Car Seat with LATCH
Car Seat LATCH Connectors: Lower anchor connectors on the car seat are used to secure the car seat to the vehicle seat. Vehicle manufacturers may specify a maximum weight limit for lower anchor use. Most state that the weight of the car seat plus the weight of the child cannot exceed 65 pounds. Push button and rigid lower anchor connectors may be more user friendly, compared to the hook style lower anchor connector. Car seat manufacturers dictate the orientation of lower anchor connectors when attached to the vehicle.
Anti-Rebound Bar and Stability/Load Leg
During a crash, a car seat (and everything else in the vehicle) will move toward the point of impact, then the car seat will move back to the original position. To limit the movement in a crash, some car seat manufacturers added an anti-rebound bar and/or a stability leg. The anti-rebound bar on a rear-facing car seat reduces the movement towards the rear of the vehicle. The stability leg extends from the base of the car seat to the vehicle floor and reduces excessive movement toward the front of the vehicle and the downward rotation of the car seat during a crash.
These are just a few of the many features found on a car seat. A car seat “Ease-of-Use-Rating” is provided by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA’s “Ease-of-Use Ratings” let you compare how easy it is to use certain car seat features so you can make informed decisions about selecting the right car seat. The “Ease of Use Rating” for car seat found at https://www.nhtsa.gov/car-seat-ease-use-ratings.
If you have questions on using your car seat, contact the car seat manufacturer or visit their website. Many car seat manufacturers have posted video clips to demonstrate the use of their car seats. If you still have questions, contact customer service question. Pennsylvania has a number of local car seat fitting stations where child passenger safety technicians assist parents and guardians on the correct use of their car seat. A list can be found on this site at https://pakidstravelsafe.org/resources/car-seat-check-fitting-station-locations/