It’s estimated that as many as 80 percent of infant car seats may be installed or used improperly, which can dramatically increase a child’s risk of injury in a crash.
Kisha Price, a certified child passenger safety technician at the Johns Hopkins Safety Center in Baltimore, thinks it may be even worse than that. “From my experience, I’ve seen probably two car seats out of a thousand installed correctly,” she says.
That’s surprising and yet it shouldn’t be. Car seats are complicated because you have to install the seat in your vehicle and use it correctly with your child in it. There’s a lot of room for error, especially considering that not every vehicle on the road is designed the same.
To make sure your car seat is installed right, get help from the pros—certified car seat technicians. Here’s how:
--Leave installation to them. Visit a safety seat inspection station near you and have a certified car seat technician install the car seat you’ve selected before your baby is born. Encourage grandparents and anyone else who will be transporting your child in their vehicle to do the same. While the technician is at it, you’ll get a lesson in how to properly position your child in the seat, which is as important as proper installation.
--Double-check your work. If that’s not convenient or you decide to install your car seat yourself, visit a car seat inspection station to see how you did and correct any mistakes as soon as possible afterwards. Ditto for grandparents and babysitters. (See 5 car seat dos and don'ts.)
You can find child safety seat inspection stations through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Visit http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm to find the nearest inspection station. The service is free, but you may need to make an appointment.
Have you visited a car seat inspection station? If so, we’d like to hear about your experience and whether you thought it was helpful or worth the effort.