We rely on them every day — our children’s car seats. Yet, study after study has shown that the vast majority of parents are installing their car seats incorrectly.
“When it comes to incorrect installation, what we’re seeing is that the seat isn’t tight enough. Also, using more than one method to install the seats — lower anchor and the seatbelt, when you should use one or the other unless your manufacturer states otherwise — and not using the top tether for forward-facing car seats,” says safety specialist Sharalyn Crossfield, owner of Gate Maven and Car Seat Maven, which provide home and car seat safety services in the Ottawa area.
And then there is the issue of rear-facing vs. forward-facing. Crossfield says it’s now recommended that children move from rear-facing to forward-facing around two years of age. Of course, parents should always follow the weight and height recommendations on the manual but “we really want to get parents to focus on two years old being the bare minimum to go forward-facing and not one year old like in previous years,” explains Crossfield.
If you are a member of a parent group on Facebook, you have likely seen other parents posting used car seats for sale. While many believe it’s taboo to purchase a second-hand car seat, Crossfield says you can certainly use one, as long as it meets the criteria.
“It should have the safety mark on the side, as well as a manual, and you should trust that the previous owner is telling you that the seat has never been in a collision, that it’s never been misused and that the straps have never been washed, which compromises the strength of the material,” she explains.
“If that’s the case, you can absolutely use a used seat. But remember — car seats are safety devices. They’re not just some place to sit your kids in the car. You want to make sure that seat works perfectly in the event of a collision.”
For first-time parents especially, installing a new car seat can be a bit of a daunting task. Crossfield advises that you simply take your time and carefully follow your manuals, both for your car seat and your vehicle.
“You’re going to look for tightness at the belt path — where it’s attached to your vehicle, you want one inch or less of movement, front to back, side to side, using your non-dominant hand,” she explains. “You want to make sure your recline is correct and then you can always follow up by having your seat checked by a certified technician.”