Three out of 4 child car seats are not installed properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kim Lombard, an injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic, says correctly installing a car seat is key to keeping kids stay safe on the road.
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Car seats only protect your child in a crash if they're installed properly.
"There are two methods for installing car seats," says Lombard. "We can either use the seat belt system that comes in the vehicle, or we can use a system that's called LATCH [Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children], which is a system of hooks and anchors."
Always refer to the car seat instructions and vehicle manufacturer's instructions for weight limits, proper use and installation.
"You do want to make sure that there are no twists in your straps, in your harness," says Lombard. "And we want to make sure that we have a snug fit."
Lombard says that with a little bit of effort, you should be able to get the seat tight enough so it does not move more than an inch left to right or front to back.
Once the car seat is in securely, it's ready for your child. Car seats have a five-point harness, which means that they protect the child at his or her shoulders, hip bones and pelvic bone. To check the harness fit, pinch it at the child's shoulder. If you can pinch any webbing, the harness is too loose, and a child could be thrown from the seat in a crash.
Keep kids rear-facing as long as possible, according to the car seat's height and weight requirements.