A few months ago I was in a car accident. It was my fault, no other car/person/living thing was involved, and neither myself nor my daughter was injured, thank goodness. Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m intent on having you all learn from my mistake: despite studying the manual and researching how to do it, my daughter’s car seat was not installed properly. I was issued a summons – I had to pay a large fine and then had to complete a 2-hour car seat safety course in Waterbury in order to not have my license suspended (there are only 2 locations to take this class in the state, and Waterbury is the closest to anything in Fairfield County.) In a way, I’m glad I was because I learned a lot and will share here. Just remember: 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly in the United Sates.
Connecticut Child Passenger Safety Law
- Infants must remain rear-facing until they are a minimum of BOTH 20 pounds AND age one! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping young children rear facing until they are at least 2 years of age (with the appropriate car seat). This can be a rear-facing only seat or a convertible seat.
- Children must ride in a car seat until they are seven years old AND 60 pounds!
Types of Car Seats
Convertible Seat – many seats have a harness that goes to 40 pounds or more. It can go rear facing (for appropriate age/weight) and forward facing until the child outgrows it. Find a seat that has the appropriate harness. The longer you keep them in a harness, the safer they are in your car.
Combination Seat – has a harness but does not rear face in a vehicle. This seat is helpful for children who are too tall for their convertible seat and yet still need to be in a harness for safety. Once the child outgrows the harness it can be removed and the seat needs to be used with a lap belt and shoulder belt.
Booster seats -must be used with a lap and shoulder belt. Many of these seats can go up to 70 lbs, 100 lbs and more. They can have a high back or be backless.
- Once children are beyond the age and weight of the law requiring a seat for them, they must use the seat belt in their vehicle. Make sure the lap portion of the belt rests on the thighs or hips of the child (not stomach) and the shoulder belt rest on the collar bone and does not rise up on the neck. If this is not possible continue to use a booster seat.
- Children should ride in the back seat until the age of 13, though this isn’t a violation of Connecticut law. This will help protect them from the dangers of the air bag, though. If you absolutely need to have your child ride in the front seat, and you have a newer car, you may be able to turn the air bag off.
- Once a car seat has been in a crash of ANY kind-even a fender bender, do not use it without checking with your car seat manufacturer – they usually need to be replaced after being in a crash. Your insurance company is obligated to provide you with a brand new car seat after a crash, though you need to check with your individual insurance company as to how to go about this process. We had to provide photos of the old seat with the straps cut, as well as a copy of the receipt and picture of the box of the new seat before we were reimbursed.
- Please stay away from buying car seats at tag sales or receiving a used seat from someone you do not know well. You DO NOT KNOW the history of that car seat!
- If you are having trouble installing your car seat in your vehicle find a car seat fitting station in your area for a CERTIFIED technician to assist you.
** You can go to your local police station for help, but just know that not all of the police are CERTIFIED to help with car seats. One of the officers who responded to my accident chided me for having the car seat in the middle of the back seat, even though I told him the manual and all of my research said that was the safest place. Guess what? I was right, and the officer who lead the safety course verified that I was.
I know my daughter can unlock herself in one part of her five-point harness. Please do whatever you can – yes, bribery is more important than injury – to make sure your child learns to keep themselves buckled in their car seat at all times. If you get pulled over for any reason and your child is out of the harness – even if they unlocked themselves – you will still be held responsible.
Do not make the mistake of thinking things like, “I’m only going to the store around the corner…” My accident was less than 1/4 of a mile from my home, and it could have easily taken a different turn then it did. As the officer who taught my class said over and over again – NO EXCUSES! This applies to your own seat belt, too!
The Safe Kids website was suggested to us by our “teacher” as the best for any questions about car seat safety.
I’m hoping that none of our readers have had to find out the hard way that their child’s car seat was installed improperly, but if you’ve had a similar experience, do you have any tips or tricks you can pass on?