As parents and caregivers, we always want the best for our children, the best food, clothes, schools, neighborhoods and for them to be safe. Despite our best intentions to keep our children safe, as many as 80 percent of child safety seats are improperly installed.
In order to keep your children safe, make sure to follow the Wisconsin State Law Guidelines.
Infants should remain rear-facing until age one and until they are at least 20 pounds. The best practice is to keep the infant rear-facing until age two or longer if they are still within the weight and height restrictions of their child safety seat. If the child reaches the weight limits of the infant child safety seat before age two, a rear-facing convertible child safety seat should be used.
When the infant’s head is one inch from the top of the child safety seat they should no longer use that seat. Children must be in a forward facing, five-point harness, child safety seat until age four and until they are at least 40 pounds. The best practice is to keep the child in a forward facing, five-point harness child safety seat until the child reaches the weight limits of that seat. Some child safety seats have harness weights up to 50-80 pounds.
Children are much better protected when restrained in a harness. Children must be in a booster seat until they are eight years old or 80 pounds or 4’9 inches tall, and until they are tall enough to sit on the vehicle seat without slouching and the seat belt fits snugly across the hips, chest and shoulder.
Children four and younger need to be restrained appropriately in the back seat.
In general, the safest position for a child is in the rear middle position. When buckling a child in, the harness straps should be at or below the shoulder of a rear-facing child and at or above the shoulder of a forward- facing child. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
Using a seatbelt to secure a child safety seat is just as safe as using the lower anchors. Most vehicles’ lower anchors have a weight limit of 65 pounds – child and child safety seat weight combined. Use the seat belt when this is reached. When looking for the lower anchor positions, refer to the car owner’s manual. When tested for tightness, all properly installed child safety seats should not move more than one inch at the belt path.
A properly installed infant seat should have the child seated at a 45-degree angle. Forward-facing child safety seats should be secured using the top tether as well as the seat belt or lower anchors. Remember, child safety seats expire after six years. Individuals may check the manufactured date located on a label on the child safety seat. If the child safety seat has been in a crash it should be replaced, even if it appears to be undamaged.
Proper use and installation of child safety seats are extremely important to the safety of children, make the necessary changes today.
Penny Maletzke is health promotion specialist at Aurora Health Care and certified child passenger safety technician.