Car Seat Installation Tips

Recommended by the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program (NHTSA):

Always consider the needs of each passenger.

Although there may be many seating positions in a vehicle, not all may be suitable for installing a child restraint. The child restraint manufacturer’s instructions and/or the vehicle owner’s manual may not allow certain vehicle positions to be used.  It is recommended that all children under 13 ride in a back seat to avoid contact with the front seat air bag system. They are almost always safer in the back.

As long as the child restraint fits, the center rear seating position may be the safer position because it is furthest from impact and intrusion from any direction. However, some center-rear facing positions are not usable, and many families transport more than one child.

Always ask, “Who rides in the vehicle? Where will each person sit?”

Check the child restraint for a secure installation. Make sure there is less than 1 inch (25 mm) of movement when when pulling forward and side-to-side at the vehicle belt path.

What is LATCH?

LATCH, which stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”, is designed to make proper car seat installation easier.

The LATCH system has two permanent anchors at the base of vehicle’s rear seats and a top anchor behind each seating position in all vehicles. These anchors are specifically designed for car seat tethers and hooks.

LATCH is standard in all cars manufactured after September 1, 2002, and eliminates the need for the use of passenger seatbelts to secure the car seat.

The single lower attachment strap on most convertible child restraints must be switched to utilize the correct path for rear- and forward-facing positions. In doing so, it is important to make sure that the strap is in the correct location and not twisted (if possible). If your LATCH attachments do not reach the vehicle hooks they are probably in the wrong position. For specific instructions on how to use your child restraint’s LATCH system, refer to your owner’s manual.

Click here for more information about LATCH.

Installation Angle: Rear-Facing Child Restraint

The child restraint spreads crash forces along the entire head, neck, and back. The correct position helps keep the airway open. Parents should use the angle given in the child restraint manufacturer’s instructions (30 to 45 degrees). Not all manufacturers recommend the same angle. Always consult the child restraint manufacturer’s instructions for how to obtain the proper angle. Do not recline more than 45 degrees from vertical. As baby ages and obtains better head control, he or she may sit more upright. This can actually provide for improved crash protection.

Checklist for Choosing Where to Install your Child Restraint:

  • The back seat is the safest location
  • Consider air bag effects
  • Consider the needs of other passengers
  • Choose seat belt or lower anchor system
  • Check for a secure installation

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