Car seat safety tips: Protecting our little passengers

girl in carseat holding a Labrador retriever puppy

As a parent, ensuring your child’s safety is a top priority, especially when it comes to traveling in a vehicle. A few months ago, I chatted with Rochester, NY child passenger safety technician, Elaina Caven, about child car seat safety tips including guidelines, common mistakes (and how to fix them), where to find a car seat tech in your area, and more. Here are a few takeaways from our conversation to help ensure your child is protected on the road.

1. How to choose the right car seat

Selecting the appropriate car seat for your child involves considering several factors. These factors include the child’s age, weight, and height, as well as your budget, compatibility with your vehicle, and your lifestyle. The perfect car seat for your family is a car seat that meets your child’s and family’s needs while also fitting within your budget.

2. Register your car seat

Register your car seat with the manufacturer to receive important safety updates or recall notifications. This ensures you stay informed about any potential issues or necessary modifications.

3. Be sure your car seat is installed correctly

Proper installation is key to car seat safety. Read your car seat’s manual thoroughly and follow the instructions for installation. If you’re unsure, consult a certified  Child Passenger Safety Technician for assistance. 

  • Make sure your seat has a tight installation. One of the most common mistakes Elaine has observed, especially among new parents, is the failure to achieve a tight installation. Many parents assume a click or a seemingly secure connection is enough, but it is crucial to ensure a tight fit. A good way to check for a tight fit is to grab the seat at the belt path with your non-dominant hand and attempt to move it side to side and front to back. If it moves less than 1 inch in any direction, you have a tight install.
  • Position the Car Seat at the Right Angle: Check the car seat’s recline angle to ensure it’s correctly positioned. Different car seats have specific requirements, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to achieve the appropriate angle.

4. Ensure proper car seat usage

Using a car seat correctly is vital for ensuring your car seat works properly in the event of a crash. During our chat, Elaina emphasized the importance of thoroughly reading and following all instructions provided with the car seat manual (most car seats even include a space within the seat where you can store the manual so you can access them whenever you need to).

  • Verify weight limits. Be sure to verify the weight limits associated with using lower anchors instead of seat belts for car seat installation.
  • Secure harness straps correctly: Ensure the harness straps are snug and properly positioned. The straps should lie flat against your child’s chest, with the chest clip at armpit level. Be sure to avoid bulky clothing that can affect the harness’s tightness.
  • Ensure harness straps are properly positioned: One common car seat mistake is the improper positioning of the harness straps, which should be just below or at the child’s shoulders for rear-facing seats and at or above your child’s shoulders for forward-facing seats.
  • Avoid using aftermarket accessories: Stick to using only manufacturer-approved accessories for your car seat. Aftermarket products, such as strap covers or head supports, may interfere with the car seat’s safety performance.
  • Regularly inspect and adjust: Regularly inspect your car seat for any signs of wear, damage, or loose parts. Check the harness straps’ tightness and adjust as needed to accommodate your growing child.

5. Rear-Face as Long as Possible:

Keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, following the manufacturer’s guidelines. This position provides optimal protection for their head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.

6. Keep Children in the Back Seat:

For maximum safety, always place your child’s car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. This reduces the risk of injury from airbags and provides additional protection in the event of a collision.

Rochester, NY Car Seat Safety Technicians

If you are still concerned about your car seat install or would just like some peace of mind, reach out to a certified child passenger safety technician. These experts can provide personalized assistance, answer specific questions, and help with the proper installation and use of car seats. Here is a list of a few in the Rochester, NY area to get you started:

  • Elaina Caven | Flower City Nannies | 585-727-9877
  • Sean Beiter  |  sbeiter@northgreecefd.com
  • Jessica M Aponte  |  Jmaponte1984@gmail.com
  • Debra Bell  |  Action for a Better Community  |  585-736-8319
  • Heidi Boehl  |  Culver Ridge Fire Dept  |  585-336-9117
  • Michael Cottorone  |  585-453-1212  |  mcottorone@ymail.com
  • Karen Knauf  |  Injury Free Coalition for Kids  |  585-273-4238  |  karen_knauf@urmc.rochester.edu

Child car seat safety is a critical aspect of protecting our little passengers in Rochester, NY. By choosing the right car seat, using it properly, and understanding common mistakes, you can significantly increase your child’s safety during car rides.

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