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Belt Up

Jun 28, 2008
Child safety is a top priority with parents, and this is reflected in the amount of time and money they are willing to spend on a car seat for their child. Yet according to a multi-year study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 79.5 percent of all car safety seats for children were used incorrectly.

The improper usage of safety restraints was the major fault found in the study. Problems were discovered in the looseness of both the safety belts and the harness straps. These mistakes, the ones that almost every parent makes, are the ones that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, as it is also called, say can be the most "critical".

Initially, your should definitely make sure your child is strapped into a car safety seat that is made for his or her weight and height and that it is in the correct position. Don't make the mistake of placing your child in a newborn car seat that faces the rear if he is over a year old, or weights more than 20 pounds. Seats that are specially designed for infants are smaller and they fit more tightly around the baby. Infant car seats should always be used in the back seat, as should all child safety restraints, and only ever in the rear-facing position.

If you prefer a seat that will accommodate your baby as they grow, a convertible seat is another option. Support needed by convertible seats is something that makes them larger and heavier. Convertibles should also be placed in the rear-facing position for infants weighing under 20 pounds and under 12 months of age. When the baby out grows that position, the seat can be forward-facing until they reach 40 pounds.

A more important factor than which seat you pick is actually knowing how to use it correctly. You will find it easier to do so if you read all the important parts of your vehicle owner guide and the instruction that came with your safety seat. Obviously, to be effective, your child's car seat must be buckled into the seat correctly, and the seat must be correctly buckled into your car.

Many parents find harness straps annoying and confusing, but they merely need to accomodate the size of your baby, comfortably, yet tightly, around the chest area and fit into the correct slot. Convertible and infant-only car seats have different requirements for harness strap slot positions; aim above the shoulder for convertibles and below the shoulder for the infant-only ones. Other things that matter in using the harness are the proper placement of the harness clip, around the armpit level, always check the owner's guide to confirm the exact placement, and having non-twisted straps.

Also consult your owner's guide as you strap in the seat belt, making sure it goes through the right path, and tilt the seat back by 45 degrees. Some parents put a rolled up towel under the seat's base as well. Tighten the seat belt, as needed, to ensure the restraint is secured to your vehicle. For any car that has LATCH systems, the owner must take note of that and make sure their seat is installed the way their car seat guide and vehicle ownership guide detail. The seat should be in good condition, so if you purchase a used one, double check the label for age. For age, keep your seat under five years old, and never purchase any seat that does not include a set of full manufacturer's instructions. Know your seat's history, including whether or not it has been in any accidents, and make sure it has all its parts.
About the Author
Read this article by Vivienne Myatt and check if your child is in danger. Discover how you keep your child safe. Also, see how subscribers to her newsletter save money every month. Her interests are shared by mums and moms everywhere.
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