As new parents often quickly discover, what may be designed for use by infants and toddlers will most times require up to two adult minds to prepare or assemble. Installing a car seat is one of those instances.

According to a study performed by the Journal of Pediatrics, 95% of the participants misused a child safety seat. Of that, up to 85% had an error in positioning or installation of the safety seat. Here are a few tips on proper child seat installation, so you don’t end up on the wrong end of that statistic.

Center is safer

One general rule of thumb is that your child should be a passenger in the back seat until they’re old enough to drive. It’s the safer spot, because frontal impacts are the most common car accidents.

Also the force of the deployment of the front passenger side air bag may cause injury to smaller passengers. The safest place is the center position in the back seat. A study performed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, revealed that children seated in the center rear have a 43% lower risk of injury compared to children in a rear outbound position. If you have more than one child, you should put the youngest in the center.

Seat belt or LATCH installation

Since 2003, car manufacturers are required to have at least two lower anchor and tethers for children (LATCH). It’s a system of straps and hooks to make car seat installation easier. Although, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four car seats are improperly installed with or without LATCH. For best results, be sure to read both the car seat instruction manual and the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

Parents.com recommends that you avoid using both the seat belt and the LATCH. Also, if your vehicle does not have a LATCH in the center position, you should place the car seat in the position that allows for the tightest fit in the back seat. With a snug fit, the seat should not move more than an inch front to back or side to side when pulled along the seat belt path. Lastly, when in doubt or if you’re looking for trained and certified assistance, you can have your installation checked by a child passenger safety technician (CPST). Locate one in your area here.

Set the correct seating angle

In the rear-facing position, MayoClinic.com recommends to recline the car seat according to the manufacturer's instructions so your child's head doesn't flop forward. Babies must ride semi-reclined to keep their airways open. Many seats include angle indicators or adjusters to guide you. Keep in mind that as your child grows, you might need to adjust the angle. Check the manufacturer's instructions for details.

Tethering on forward-facing car seats

The tether strap reduces forward head movement (excursion) in a crash. Find the tether anchor points for your car in the manual or marked in the car. Make sure it’s not a cargo hook or other type of accessory anchor. Bring the tether strap from the car seat over the top of the vehicle seat. Clip the strap to the car’s tether anchor point.

From infants to toddlers, each riding stage or type of car seat should be given the proper attention to be installed and fastened safely. Also note that car seats do have expiration dates, so be sure to check the labels on the car seat. Hopefully the above tips give you a reference to get started on your new car adventures with your child or help you re-examine your current car seat installation.

SafeBee® Top Three:

  1. For best results, find a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area
  2. The backseat center position is the safest location to install your car seat
  3. Avoid using both the seat belt and LATCH system