How to Select & Install a Child Safety Seat

 By Diane Tait

When it comes to car safety, today’s vehicles have come a long way since the predecessors of yesteryear.  Back in the 60s and 70s the only two pieces of safety equipment installed on American vehicles were seatbelts and safety glass.  Fifty years later we have airbag systems that literally surround drivers and passengers with an inflatable shield that helps protect them no matter where the car is struck. With all that going for us, why is it that automobile crashes are still the #1 cause of death to children aged 3-14?  Studies have shown that 20% of children who were in a vehicle that crashed either weren’t buckled up or were improperly buckled up.  Since 43% of those who weren’t properly secured in those same vehicles wound up dying, as a result, I thought I’d take the time to show you what you can do to make sure your children are properly protected when you take them for a drive.

Nobody thinks it can happen to them. – I cringe when I see either children or pets improperly secured in a moving vehicle.  When a friend of mine asked me why parents would do this, I replied, “They either don’t think an accident can happen to them or they erroneously believe that airbags are all the protection they need.”

The fact of the matter is that an accident can happen to any driver.  Even the best drivers can be involved in an accident.  Another driver can swerve into their lane without warning or a driver who is texting can run into the back of another vehicle at a stoplight.  Once hit, you, your family, and your car are subject to Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of motion that states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  That means once your vehicle is struck, it and everything in it is going to be propelled in the opposite direction of the collision, which will in turn launch anything that isn’t secured across the vehicle.  The main reason that safety glass was instituted in the sixties was to keep people’s faces from being shredded when they hit the windshield.  While that’s no longer the case anymore, anyone or anything that isn’t wearing a seatbelt can wind up ejected from a vehicle in a crash.  As for airbags, not only won’t they keep you, your children or your pets from being hurled across the vehicle during a crash, they can themselves cause injuries to anyone who isn’t properly restrained.

How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? If you make sure that everyone and everything in your vehicle is properly secured, the odds are 90% better that you’ll all survive a collision with minimal injuries.  For adults and teenage children, this means wearing seatbelts at all times.  For pets, it means wearing a harness that is clipped onto a seatbelt.  For infants and younger children, it means being properly secured in a child safety seat.  So important is this last factor that it’s required by law in all states and US territories.  However, what the law doesn’t do is show parents how to select, install and use child safety seats.  To do this you’ll have to do a bit more research.

Do you know how to select the right seat for your child?  When it comes to child safety seats, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all.  In fact, as a child ages, he or she will need three different kinds of safety seats:

  1. Infants need rear-facing safety seats.
  2. Toddlers require forward-facing safety seats.
  3. Older children need booster seats.

Which seat does your child need? The requirements for selecting the correct seat come down to age, height, and weight.  Since these metrics change constantly, how does a parent know when it’s time to switch their child from one kind of seat to another?  Fortunately, there are several websites dedicated to helping you select the right car seat for your child.

  1. Car Seat Finder is operated by the National Highway Safety Administration.  Not only will it make finding the right seat for your child easy, but it also gives you helpful step-by-step tips on how to properly install it. 
  2. The Ultimate Car Seat Guide is a website operated by Safe Kids Worldwide.  It was designed to not only help you find and install the correct seat for your children but also provides handy tips to let you know when it’s time to move your kids from one type of seat to the next. 
  3. Consumer Reports also offers a helpful Car Seat Ratings and Buying Guide that takes the process one step farther by rating car seats from various manufacturers.  

This is one thing you need to get right first time, every time. Once you’ve purchased a child safety seat, what do you need to do to install it correctly?  While there are a number of helpful websites and videos online, an even safer approach is to connect with groups that offer to show you how to properly install and use any safety seat you purchase.  Here’s the link to that does just that.

If you would like help to install your car seat, a car seat technician can help. Safe Kids coalitions have car seat checkup events and inspection stations around the country. Find an event here. If there isn’t an event near you, look here for a certified child passenger safety technician who can help you

Should you buy a used child safety seat? Since child seats are only used for a relatively short period of time, you might find yourself in a position where a friend or relative decides to give you one they’re no longer using.  Or you may decide to purchase a secondhand child safety seat from Craigslist.  Before you opt for a used safety seat, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. Was the seat ever involved in an accident? (If it was it could have been damaged.)
  2. Has the seat ever been recalled? (You’ll need the model number & date of manufacture.)
  3. Is the seat complete or is it missing any parts?
  4. Does it include the instruction manual? (If not, can you acquire the manual from the manufacturer?)

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.


  1. My brother was involved in a car accident about a year ago while driving his daughter to work. the vehicle was a total loss, but both he and his daughter walked away without a scratch becuase they were both properly seat belted.

  2. I remember all the decisions we had to make with car seats. Big hassle but who cares about the hassle when it comes to the safety of your child!


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