It’s Child Passenger Safety Week! YAY!
I get complaints all the time from families about how hard cars seats are to install and use correctly. Yes, they can require a few tries before figuring out how to get a seat installed correctly into a car. Yes, I often end up with cuts and scrapes while helping parents wrestlt with a seat. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all easier, but the reality is, things aren’t going to change any time soon. So if you’re wondering what the deal is, here are 4 reasons those car seats are so tricky to install.
1) Lack of universal requirements for LATCH in cars- While LATCH became standard on most cars starting in 2002, there aren’t set standards for HOW the LATCH system exists in a car. So, for example, in some sedans, you have 3 different positions that you can use lower anchors. That’s rare. More often, you can only use the outboard positions. Lack of universal standards mean that you need to consult the car;s owner manual and the car seat owner’s manual to make sure they will play nicely with each other.
2) Lack of universal requirements for car seat manufacturers- In the US, car seats are required to meet minimum crash test standards. You’ll also start to see more seats now that have “side crash protection,” but not all seats do. Some seats have “ease of use” features like lockoffs, variable angle settings, optional rear-facing tethers…you get the picture. And while those things can make a seat a great seat to use, I find that parents are more confused by the array of options than helped. The free market at it’s finest.
3) Parents don’t read the directions- I know those manuals seem like they are simply too thick to read and have too much information, but the grand secret of car seat checks? We read the manual for the car and your car seat with you and go from there. Just don’t tell anyone that’s what we do. (OK, so we also have some tricks up our sleeve and are more familiar with different seats, but still.)
4) That seat your friend lent you is broken- After a few years of use, some really messed up things can happen to car seats. Like what? Harnesses completely misthreaded, buckles missing, parts installed upside-down, key pieces broken off, lower anchor belts so coated with crumbs and goo that you can’t actually adjust the belt…yikes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The car seat is the ONE THING you should buy new. Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for kids under the age of 12. Why skimp on a vital piece of safety equipment?
5) Amazon reviews are just opinions- So, you get home that seat that has RAVE review from parents online, and then you realize….it’s not as easy to use as people say. Why? Well, again, the reviewers may have a different kind of car, may have a different number of kids, and who’s to say that they put the seat in correctly? Maybe it was “easy” to install because it’s wrong.
And know that if you’re struggling, help is out there. A CPST can help you understand your car, your car seat, and teach you how to install your seat in your car. We’re often happy to help advise on types of car seats, too. Car seat techs are special kinds of nerds. Let us help you keep your precious car as safe as can be.