Safety and Injury Prevention Car Seat Safety Properly installing and using a car seat can be challenging.Before you begin, always consult the car seat manufacturer's instructions and the owner's manual for your vehicle. Not all car seats and vehicles follow the same installation instructions. If you’d like our experts to make sure your car seat is installed correctly, just call or email for an appointment. Our Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will inspect your car seat to help keep your child safe. Please note: appointments must be made in advance.Child Passenger Safety Tips and Common QuestionsHere are answers to some of the most common questions asked about car seats as well as some great tips on the use of car seats and other child passenger safety.Common Questions | Car Seat Fit & Harness | Installation Tips & Guides Common Questions FAQs Is there anything I should avoid? How long can my child be in the car seat at one time? Is my car seat still safe after crash? Can I wash my car seat? Is it safe to buy used? Do car seats expire? Has my seat been recalled? When can my child move to a seatbelt? Are winter coats safe in car seats? Is there anything I should avoid? There is a massive market for aftermarket accessories for car seats, but just because its available doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We would not recommend the use of any product that is not specifically approved for use with your exact seat by your seats manufacturer.This is because these products have not been crash tested with your seat, so the manufacturers do not know how they may interact with you seat or your child in the event of a collision. Here are a few products we would recommend thinking twice about:Mirrors: Headrest mounted mirrors are often a favorite among parents; however, in some collisions, children actually end up colliding with those mirrors causing head and facial injuriesSeat Covers: Seat Covers (or seat protectors) are another commonly sold accessory to car seats. Unfortunately, very few are approved to be used with car seats as they often cause far too much movement in the event of a collision or over time.Additional Padding: Adding additional cushions or padding to your child’s seat, aside from what is approved by the manufacture, can be very dangerous as it can compact or flatten in a collision causing the straps to become less secure.Hanging Toys: Toys hanging from the carry handle of an infant carrier or any possible obstructions can be hazardous to children secured in a car seat. These can be either choking or suffocation hazards in some cases and even impact hazards if they swing and strike children in the event of a collision. How long can my child be in the car seat at one time? The two-hour rule: Most car seat manufacturers and child passenger safety professionals recommend that children not remain in car seats for more than two hours at a time. This is due to the strain on the baby’s development, as well as restrictions on airflow.When traveling, research suggests stopping every two hours and taking baby out of the seat, even if it means waking baby. The same would apply when bringing baby into the home after being in the car. A flat cleared surface such as a crib is the safest place for baby to sleep. Is my car seat still safe after crash? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends car seats be replaced after a moderate to severe crash, not after a minor one.A minor crash is one where ALL of the following apply:The vehicle can still be drivenThe door nearest the car seat was not damagedNo passengers were injuredAir bags did not deployThere is no visible damage to the car seatNever use a car seat that was involved in a moderate to severe crash. Follow this link for more info: https://www.nhtsa.gov/car-seats-and-booster-seats/car-seat-use-after-crash. Can I wash my car seat? Let’s face it, car seats can get a bit dirty. Most car seats can be stripped and the cloth coverings can be hand washed, refer to your manual for those details. Something to always remember is to NEVER submerge your straps and webbing (harness, belts, etc.) in water. These need to stay as dry as possible, so use a damp rag or wipe instead. Avoid using a hose to clean car seats or leaving them out to get wet, all of these things can cause the car seat to deteriorate faster. Is it safe to buy used? It may be tempting to purchase a used car seat from a garage sale or second-hand store; however, it’s not recommended. It’s nearly impossible to learn if the seat has been involved in a crash or not properly maintained, so you can’t know the seat will protect your child should you have an accident. If you choose to purchase a used car seat, it may be safe to use if it:Has never been in a moderate to severe crashHas labels that are present with date of manufacture and model numberHas no recalls – search for recalls hereIs not expired (expiration date may be found on model number sticker or stamped in the plastic of the back of the seat. If no expiration date is found, do not use the seat beyond six years from the manufacture date)Has all of its parts, including the instruction manual Do car seats expire? All safety devices expire, and car seats are no different. Most typically expire within six years of being manufactured, though some newer seats can last 10 years.You can often find the manufacturers sticker on the back or underside of the car seat, it may include an expiration date or at least a manufactured date. If your manual does not indicate the expiration date you can also contact your manufacturer directly. Has my seat been recalled? Unfortunately, sometimes car seats can be recalled by the manufacturer. Reasons for this may vary, but it’s always a good idea to register any new seats immediately so you are notified of any possible issues should they arise. You can search for recalls here (link https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls ). When can my child move to a seatbelt? When considering moving your child from booster to a seatbelt consider the seatbelt fit test. Remember that these results may vary from vehicle to vehicle.Seatbelt Fit Test:When sitting fully back in the seat, do the child’s knees hang off the seat comfortably?Is the seatbelt placed across the hips, not stomach?Is the shoulder belt laying across the shoulder and not touching the neck or hanging off the shoulder?View seatbelt test video.Also note, children should remain in the back seat until age 13, this is because their bones are not developed enough to withstand the impact of an airbag until age 13. Are winter coats safe in car seats? It’s always best to avoid thick winter coats in car seats. Bulky and puffy coats or jackets can cause the harness to appear snug, but when force is applied, the material will flatten and compress causing baby to become loose and possible slide out of the harness straps.Instead, consider layers and more fleece like materials. Once strapped in, you can also use blankets or even place the coat backward over the straps to keep the child warm. Car Seat Fit & Harness View All Harness Fit The three main things to watch when using a harness are:Height of strapsThe chest clipSnugnessFirst, let’s make sure the harness straps are at the right level. If we are rear facing, the straps should coming out at or below the shoulders, at the closest option. If we are forward facing, the harness straps should start above the shoulder line at the closest option. Second, let’s make sure the chest clip is at arm pit level and everything below the chest clip is nice and snug. The chest clip helps keep the shoulder straps up and protects the child’s organs by bracing against the ribs. Lastly, let’s pull the harness nice and snug, but not too tight. You can check this by preforming the “Pinch Test”. At the shoulder, going up and down, pinch the harness straps to see if you can gather any in your fingers. If you can, it may need to be a little snugger. View Pinch Test Video Rear Facing Vs. Forward Facing It is always best to stay rear facing as long as possible; it is much safe than forward facing. Once we outgrow the infant seat, we can move to a convertible seat which will function both rear facing and forward facing. Generally, these convertibles will work rear facing up to 40 pounds. Once you reach that weight limit, it's time to move forward facing. Also note that some seats also have height limits. If you exceed either the height or weight of the rear facing seating position, it’s time to move to forward facing. Harness Vs. Booster It is always best to stay in a harness as long as possible; it is much safer than just a seatbelt, even with a booster. Most new forward facing seats have a weight max of 65 pounds, but can vary, so check your seat to be sure. There is often a height restriction as well.Once you have exceeded either the height or weight of that seat or position, it’s time to move to the booster and eventually a seatbelt. Installation Tips & Guides View All General Installation Tips Here are a few details to consider during installation:Seat Position: When choosing a seating position, consider leg room of front seat passengers. You may also need to consider things like ease of use as well as access to latch or tether anchors.Latch vs Seatbelt: Never use both the latch and seatbelt methods of installation at the same time. Neither is safer than the other, but sometimes one may be easier to get snug and secure. Latch typically maxes out at 65lbs including the weight of the seat, so typically its best to just use the seatbelt in forward facing seats. Also, be careful using latch in the center seat as many vehicle manufacturers will not allow that. Always refer to the vehicle manual for proper use of latch.Tether: The tether must always be used in forward facing seats. This is the strap that secures the top of the seat to the vehicle (usually in the back window or back of the vehicle seat). Always refer to the vehicle manual for proper routing. Infant Seats Infant seat or infant carriers typically have a base that the seat clicks into (though they can be used without). Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.Here is a great video on installing the rear facing infant seat.Starting with the base, place it in the vehicle and adjust your level (most seats have a recline adjustment option). Once level, we can use either the seatbelt or the LATCH system, but never both.If using a seatbelt, run the seatbelt through the belt path and buckle the seatbelt. Once secured, place one hand in the base and press while pulling the seatbelt snug with the other. To lock the seatbelt in place you will either use a built in lock-off, or you will need to pull the shoulder belt all the way out until the seatbelt locks and remains locked as you feed it back in.If you choose the latch option, you will need to locate the latch bars between the seat back and base of the seat (not all seating positions or vehicles have latch). Hook the latch straps into those bars, then place one hand in the base and press while pulling the latch strap snug with the other.You will know the seat base is secure when the level is still correct and the seat moves less than one inch at the belt path. Then you can place the seat into the base to secure it. Make sure you can always fit your hand smoothly between the car seat and back of the front seat, so they are not pressing against each other. Convertible Rear-Facing Convertible seats can be installed both rear facing and forward facing, but note that each position has its own height and weight limit as well as belt routing. Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.Here is a great video on installing the rear facing convertible seat.When installing the rear facing seat, make sure the seat is in the proper recline (using the level feature) and configuration. Also ensure that you are using the rear facing belt path when routing your seatbelt or latch strap.Choose either the latch or seatbelt for installation, but never both. Often the latch is the easier option for rear facing, but it’s not always an option. Be sure to review both your vehicle manual and car seat manual for clarification.For Latch, attach the anchors to the designated latch bars in the crevice of the seat while routed through the rear facing belt path. For Seatbelt, route the belt through the rear facing belt path and buckle it, then pull the seatbelt all the way out from the top until the belt remains locked as it retracts.Once connected, make sure the seat is level and push down on the seat while pulling the belt or strap until it’s tight. Once snug, the seat should move less than 1 inch in any direction at the belt path, other areas may have more wiggle room and that’s ok. Forward-Facing Forward-facing seats can include convertibles, combination boosters and more. Anything forward-facing with a harness. Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.Here is a great video on installing the forward-facing seat.Before you start, make sure you have identified the forward-facing belt path (if convertible), tether attachment (at the top back) and any recline adjustments that need to be made for forward facing use. Also remember that we now need to adjust the harness straps to “above the shoulders”.Next, place the seat in and run the seatbelt through the forward facing belt path and buckle it. Also, route the tether over the back of the seat and secure it to the tether anchor (marked with a logo) and pull tight.To secure the seat, pull the shoulder belt out completely until the retractor locks and stays locked. Then feed the belt back in and pull the belt tight until you have 1 inch or less of movement at the belt path. Boosters Belt-positioning boosters are designed to help a child transition from a car seat to the seatbelt, since most children that have outgrown the car seat are not yet big enough to fit a seatbelt alone. These may include high-back boosters and backless boosters.Here is a great video on installing the booster.When installing a belt-positioning booster, place the seat into the vehicle, some seats have a latch or tether option for keeping the seat from moving when not in use, secure those but do not tighten them very much.Place the child in the seat and ensure that the belt lays across the hips and shoulder and not off the shoulder or against the neck. If using a backless booster, also ensure that the child has a head rest. TRAUMA & ACUTE CARE SURGERY Follow Injury Prevention at CoxHealth on Facebook. Get the latest injury prevention tips, news, and other updates from CoxHealth. right Follow Injury Prevention at CoxHealth on Facebook.