Car seat safety

What you should know

Created date

August 6th, 2018
All components of the car seat you choose must be properly secured. Even the best seats are useless if installation is done incorrectly.

All components of the car seat you choose must be properly secured. Even the best seats are useless if installation is done incorrectly.

Mark Twain once quipped that there are “lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.” But when it comes to car seats, the numbers don’t lie. Vehicular crash research suggests that, when properly installed, car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury to infants under one by 71%. 

In fact, car accidents rank as the number one killer of children ages 12 and younger—an important consideration for parents and grandparents with automobiles. Recently, the Tribune spoke with nationally certified child car seat expert Debbi Baer, R.N., about what to know when shopping for this essential transportation accessory.

Tribune: What are the main concerns when you get a car seat for a child or grandchild?

Baer: There are several.

One, you need the right car seat for the child’s age, height, and weight. The second concern is finding a car seat that is compatible with your car. Three, is it a car seat that you will be able to use correctly each and every time your child or grandchild is in it?

But I think, generally speaking, a significant factor is product knowledge. In the United States, all car seats on the market have to meet certain safety standards, but there are seats with features that really go above and beyond in terms of quality and safety; and I urge people to read the literature and consult an expert about that.

Tribune: What are a few of those features?

Baer: Every vehicle made after September 1, 2002, has a LATCH system (Lower Anchored Tethers for Children) that helps to anchor a car seat.

The lower anchors are metal bars found in the bight of the vehicle seat to which we attach the anchors on the LATCH belt that comes with the child safety seat (CSS). This can be used to replace the seatbelt in certain locations in the vehicle.

Consult your vehicle manufacturer’s manual for the locations of the anchors.

The tether anchor is found behind the seat either on the filler shelf or the back of the rear seat, the floor, or the roof of the vehicle. The tether strap is found on the back of the CSS and is attached to the anchor and tightened for every forward-facing CSS.

The LATCH system can be used only up to a certain child weight. This will be clearly noted on your CSS.

Whenever you install a CSS, it can only be installed using the vehicle’s seatbelt or the LATCH system. The seat should be snug enough so that it moves less than one inch side-to-side along the vehicle seat cushion.

Tribune: And why are very young children situated in a rear-facing position?

Baer: We’ve been using rear-facing seats for young children to protect their vulnerable heads and necks. It is mandatory that children remain rear facing for at least two years and highly recommended that they stay that way until they’ve reached the maximum height or weight allowed by their convertible seat.

Most children can remain rear-facing for four years, which gives them time for their necks to strengthen. This will help decrease the likelihood of serious head and neck injuries that can occur when they are forward-facing.

Tribune: What kind of force occurs in a car accident?

Baer: Crash forces are tremendous. A 10 lb baby has the force of approximately 300 lbs in a 30 mph crash.

You also have to consider things that are sitting loose around your backseat or, with SUVs, in your rear cargo area.

Items as simple as canned groceries or books can become projectiles. Even unrestrained passengers can be very dangerous in the event of a crash, which underscores the importance of both seatbelts for adults and car seats for children in every seating position and in every vehicle.

Tribune: Where can people go for detailed information about car seats and installation?

Baer: There are many resources. You can talk to someone in your local hospital, health department, or your state’s highway administration.

Also useful are clearinghouse websites such as Or you can contact someone like me, who can help you in terms of car seat purchases and installation.

Make sure that you are completely educated on the seat you choose and, by all means, have it properly secured. Do not rely on friends for help unless they’re certified child passenger safety technicians.

Even a great car seat is useless if it isn’t correctly installed.

Editor’s note: The material in this article is purely informational. For advice and instruction on specific car seat brands and installation, please consult a qualified expert.

For more detailed information on car seats, please visit:



• your local hospital, health, or transportation department