– Donna M. Honse
Remembering this list of Do’s and Don’ts of car seat safety can help you keep your children safe. You can always contact a certified technician to have it checked if you aren’t sure whether it is installed correctly.
1) Do not use the lower anchors and the seat belt. There are no studies on how they will react together, so until then use either one or the other. The upper tether and a seat belt can be used together.
2) Do not share anchors unless the vehicles’ owner’s manual allows it.
3) Do not put your child in a heavy coat and then place in his/her car seat, as the harness straps will be tight on the coat, not the child, creating play in the straps.
4) Do make sure that the straps are tight enough so that the material cannot be pinched together.
5) Do remember to keep the harness straps at or below the child’s shoulders when placed rear facing and at or ABOVE the shoulders for forward facing.
6) *Do try to limit toys, mirrors, etc., as they are considered after-market products and their safety has not been federally tested like your vehicle and your car seat.
7) Do wash the car seat cover and the harness straps BUT DO NOT dry them in a dryer, as they will shrink.
8) Do not add fabric protector as this will take away from the flame retardant padding and DO NOT iron the harness straps.
9) Do place the harness clip across the child’s chest, making it even with the armpits.
*While after-market products (the cute little toys that attach to the car seats) are popular, most manufacturers and technicians of child seats do not recommend them. Technicians also don’t recommend after-products because they were not tested with the vehicle or the car seat. Stop and think of two factors before installing that mirror: 1) If it falls off is your child the first point of contact? ; And 2) If you are looking in your rear-view mirror at the mirror, will you be distracted from driving?
Have questions? Most can be answered by reading the car seat and vehicle manuals. Besides that, check out for more help on installing and safely using car seats: www.nhtsa.gov and www.safekids.org.
Sergeant Donna M. Honse is the Child Safety Seat Coordinator for the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.
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