Created by Toyota in association with Cincinnati Children’s Buckle Up For Life is a national injury prevention program for US families and one that’s been going since 2004.
“We know that proper use of car seats and booster seats can help prevent many child injuries and deaths,” said Gloria Del Castillo, child passenger safety expert at Cincinnati Children’s.
Indeed buying a child seat is now as normal as picking the color scheme for the nursery or comparing strollers when a family is expecting. Yet, mistakes are easy to make — there is still no such thing as a universal car seat. All children’s car seats sold in the US or in Europe have to meet strict safety standards, but there is no guarantee that a seat really will fit in a specific car. Likewise, the seat may not be suitable for a particular child’s weight and both issues will affect the seat’s effectiveness. “An alarming three out of four car seats are not installed properly. We can and must do better for our children,” Del Castillo said.
Looking at used seats might mean you can afford a premium seat on a smaller budget, but the only way to ensure a child seat’s history is to buy new. Likewise, if you have an existing seat you’re going to re-use, check its expiration date because plastics and other materials degrade over time.
Try before you buy
All car seats sold in the US or Europe have to meet rigorous safety standards regardless of their price. Therefore focus on whether the seat fits your child and, crucially if it fits every car in which it’s going to be used.
If the seat is going to stay solely in one car, then fit it in place using the ISOFIX system that anchors the seat directly to the car. If it’s going to be used in several vehicles, it will need to be fixed with seatbelts.
The pinch test
Once the seat’s in position and you’ve strapped in your child pinch the harness near the shoulders. “If you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug. Then grab the car seat at the bottom where it is attached to the car and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it,” explains Del Castillo.
Kids don’t grow up that quickly
As your child gets older and taller there can be a temptation to dump the car seat but unless he or she is over 150cm then a bolster cushion will be required — by law.