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Is Your Child’s Car Seat Installed Properly? The Odds Are Not In Your Favor.


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?

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6 Responses to Is Your Child’s Car Seat Installed Properly? The Odds Are Not In Your Favor.

  1. jana
    jana July 24, 2014 at 9:04 AM #

    Such a scary statistic! We’ve previously had ours installed at both the Police Dept. and Fire Dept. Anytime I’ve called to get ours checked, I’m always surprised that they make it so complicated (schedule an appointment, only two days a month, between certain hours, etc.)… I wish it was easier and then maybe/hopefully that 73% could be 0!

  2. Shannon
    Shannon July 24, 2014 at 2:29 PM #

    Great info, Allison! I agree with Jana. They make it so ridiculously hard to get it installed in your town. I had to go to Weston when I lived in Norwalk and the hours were odd.

  3. Jessica July 26, 2014 at 9:32 AM #

    Thank you for the information, Allison! I called Newtown PD yesterday and left a voicemail for an appointment. It looks like they only offer them twice a month, but hopefully we’ll hear back soon. Thanks again!

  4. Allison Hughes-Randall
    Allison Hughes-Randall July 27, 2014 at 8:01 PM #

    Thank ladies – please just double check to make sure they are QUALIFIED to give you that info! I was so surprised to find out that such a small amount of most police departments are as up-to-date on car seat installation as you would think they are.

  5. Katie July 28, 2014 at 1:07 PM #

    Thanks for sharing this!
    I have had both car seats (infant and convertible) installed by Darien Police Dept – (you do not have to be a Darien resident). You have to call and leave a message, but the officers have always gotten back to me within a few days, and were flexible with times – I just had to make an appointment.

  6. H September 18, 2014 at 8:19 PM #

    Reading this 2 months late, but thought I’d add a couple of things from my own car seat research and installation experience.

    In theory, the safest place is the middle of the back seat, but there are a number of caveats.

    1) The car seat should not touch either the driver or the front passenger seats. So, unless all drivers of your car are short or willing to sit scrunched up, it’s just not practical to have a rear-facing car seat in the middle. At least it was not for me.

    2) If you use the middle seat, you probably can’t use LATCH. Most car manufacturers indicate that you should NOT use one LATCH anchor from each side. And unless they are a specific distance apart, the carseat manufacturers also advise against it.

    3) While you could use the seat belt, note that not every middle seat belt is compatible with car seats either! There’s more info about compatible seat belts in most car seat manuals.

    In short, you need to check the car seat manual and the car manual before installation.

    One very helpful resource is – this site has pages dedicated to lists of both car seat models and car models that allow for installation in the middle seat, using LATCH or belts. I have found this site helpful while shopping for both car seats and cars!

    Good luck to all, and be safe!

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