As adults, we can choose whether or not to wear a seat belt no matter what the law says. Children, however, are our most vulnerable passengers, and they rely on others to make the right choice. I recently became a certified child-safety seat installation technician and learned that most car seats are not installed properly, and the results can be deadly.
Even something as simple as a twisted strap could injure the child in an accident, and an improperly secured car seat can have fatal consequences. A 10-pound child involved in a 30-mph crash becomes 300 pounds of force if the child is not properly restrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and SafeKids.org. It's not only deadly for the child, but dangerous for the vehicle's passengers.
I spent 30 hours learning how to properly install a child-safety seat. After days of confounding buckles, belts and latchplates, it's no wonder parents have trouble. Below are some installation tips and resources to help you find a certified child-seat installation tech near you. Ensuring your child is correctly and safely restrained is their top priority, and it should be yours, too.
Latch or seat belt? Latch — Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children — was mandated for model-year 2001 vehicles, and it is still the law today. The anchors make installing a child-safety seat easy, but using a seat belt is just as safe if done correctly. Some vehicles' Latch systems have weight limits, so always check your owner's manual and the child-safety seat manual before installation. Also, hook only one seat to one set of Latch anchors; most anchors are not weight-rated for sharing. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, exceptions to this rule include several Ford models: Edge, Escape, Explorer, F-150, Flex, Focus, Fusion and Mustang.
Every Vehicle is Different. Cars.com installs child-safety seats in nearly all vehicles we test because they fit differently in each of them. Some rules apply across all vehicles classes, however:
Know when to replace the seat. You'll probably end up buying several car seats during your kid's childhood. A new one is needed in the following circumstances: