Using a car seat is the most important step in helping to secure the security of your kids in the car. But just owning a car seat is not enough in itself: the car seat needs to be used, and it has to be used properly. Here are helpful steps to follow to help assure that your kids will be as secure as possible in their car seats.

– Always be sure to read and understand the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to use the car seat properly. Improper car seat usage is the main cause of car seat failure. Also, completely read the owner’s manual for your car as it relates to the usage of car seats. Most car owner’s manuals have specific instructions for car seat installation and these instructions must always be adhered to.

– To increase the security of your children, only put the car seat in the rear set of your vehicle, not in the front seat. Ideally, you should put the car set in the middle of the rear seat to increase protection against intrusion during side-impact collisions.

– If your car seat can only be used in the front seat (if there is no back seat), only install it there if there is no front seat airbag or if the airbag can be disabled. And then make sure that the airbag is indeed off. Never use a car seat in the front seat of a vehicle if the passenger-side airbag is enabled.

– Keep your infant in a rear-facing car seat for as long as they meet the size and weight restrictions for that car seat when it is rear-facing. In general, it is safer for your kids to be facing to the rear.

– When you place your child in their car seat, be certain the straps fit snugly, and be sure to use the chest strap. The chest strap should go over the chest as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If this strap is too low, your child may not be secure in the event of an accident. If the chest strap is too high, it may crush your child’s neck in an accident.

– Once your child gets too big or heavy for their car seat, you should use a booster seat until such time as the seat belt fits them properly. This is typically until they are about 4′ 9″ tall or 80 pounds. Check your vehicle owner’s guide for the exact limits on your vehicle. When it does fit correctly, the shoulder belt should fit over the shoulders, not on the neck, and the lap belt should fit across the hips, not on the belly.

– Avoid used car seats unless you know the history and age of the car seat. Do not buy car seats more than five years old, or car seats that have been in an accident. Be certain that used car seats still have all of their labels with the manufacturing information, manufacturing date, and model number. In addition, make sure that the manual is available; never purchase a car seat without the manual.

– If your automobile comes equipped with the LATCH system for car seats, make sure you get LATCH-compatible car seats. Using the LATCH system makes for easier installation, leading to increased security and reduced chance of installation mistakes. Despite this, the installation should still be checked by a certified car seat technician.

– Check out the website for the manufacturer of your vehicle. Many times, the automobile manufacturer’s websites will list, on a per-model basis, the car seats that they recommend for usage in their cars.

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