How To Properly Install A Car Seat

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By Marcus Fernandez

More children between the ages of 3-14 die from motor vehicle accidents than from any other cause. Crash data proves that the use of child seats reduces the risk of injury by up to 82% and by up to 45% for older children using booster seats. The use of a properly installed car seat not only makes sense from a safety perspective, but it also happens to be the law. Police in Florida will stop and issue tickets to drivers for having children younger than 18 in the vehicle who are not restrained by seat belts or child restraint devices. In this article, we’ll give you tools to learn how to properly install a car seat.

Child seats and booster seats save lives, but they only work when properly installed and used. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that up to 61% of forward-facing car seats and 49% of rear-facing infant seats were misused either in how they were installed in the vehicle or in how children were restrained in them. In recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week, here is information about how to properly install a car seat and helpful resources for parents and caregivers.

Florida law protecting children in vehicles

The law in Florida requires the use of safety belts for all drivers and front-seat passengers when a vehicle is in motion. Anyone younger than 18-years-old must use a safety belt regardless of where they are seated. And young children must use a child restraint device, such as a car seat or booster seat.

Infants from birth to three years of age must be secured in an integrated child safety seat or a separate carrier. For children aged 4 through 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt may be used.

Types of car seats for children

The term “car seat” refers to any of three types of devices: 

  • Rear-facing car seats. 
  • Forward-facing car seats. 
  • Booster seats. 

Rear-facing car seats, which are best suited for infants, use a harness to hold the child in a position. This positioning reduces stress on the neck and spinal cord. Children usually outgrow rear-facing seats at toddler or preschool ages and transition to a forward-facing seat. Some rear-facing devices offer parents the ability to convert them as children grow. So, check the instructions that came with your rear-facing seat to determine if it can be used for older children.

Children generally outgrow their car seats by the time they are of school age. A booster seat elevates a child enough to allow the vehicle’s seat belt to properly fit. The manual that comes with the booster seat will tell you the weight and height limits for it.

Some booster seats have a high back while others are backless. The style you choose depends on your personal preference because each of them secures the child with the seatbelt.

Tips for installing child-restraint devices

Each type of device has its own installation method. The NHTSA has a helpful video and written instructions to watch before you attempt installing a rear-facing seat. The agency also has videos and instructions for forward-facing seats and booster seats.

The following tips make installation easier regardless of the type of seat: 

  • Read the instructions that came with the seat and follow them without skipping any steps. 
  • Read installation instructions for car seats that appear in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. 
  • Make sure to secure all straps to the vehicle as indicated in the instructions. 
  • Forward- and rear-facing seats should be securely tightened. Side-to-side and front-to-back movement should not exceed one inch. 

You may want to have the installed seat inspected by an expert. Free inspections are available.

Florida makes it easier to keep children safe while complying with the law

Child seats can be expensive, but many organizations throughout Florida, including the Tampa Police Department, provide free seats to parents and caregivers who cannot afford to purchase them. If you need help installing a device, help is available throughout the Sunshine State.

The Tampa Police Department is only one of many organizations that conduct free seat inspections. The police will provide instruction to parents and caregivers on proper installation techniques. Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization that certifies people in communities throughout the world as technicians and instructors through its National Child Safety Certification program has a searchable list of locations where people can go to for help.

When accidents happen, call a Tampa attorney

Knowing how to install a car seat correctly reduces your child’s risk of injury. If your child is injured in a collision, a Tampa personal injury attorney can help. They can pursue compensation from a driver or against a manufacturer of a defective product. Call to speak to an experienced Kinney, Fernandez, and Boire Lawyer or fill out this form to get a free case evaluation.