Car Seat Safety checks are extremely important. Yet, many parents overlook this important step.
Just like when you have a question about your child’s health, turning to the internet can sometimes do more harm than good. That’s where CPSTs come in. CPSTs (Child Passenger Safety Technicians) are trained to demonstrate how to use your seat properly in order to keep your loved ones safe. There are many elements to consider when installing a car seat, and it’s baffling that the average caregiver is expected to do it with no experience.
Why Do You Need A Safety Check?
CPSTs must pass a 4-day training course with both written quizzes and hands-on skills assessments to earn their certification. They keep their certifications up-to-date by taking continuing education courses about technical advancements in the child passenger safety field.
Armed with this expertise, they are qualified to guide you through the car seat installation process. Not all car seats are compatible with every seating position and a CPST’s expertise can make all the difference in the safety of the configuration.
How to Choose a Car Seat
Though many caregivers base their decision on which seat to buy on the seat’s safety features, those safety features do little to protect the passenger if that seat is installed incorrectly. You want to choose a car seat that you can install properly and with confidence. Many children’s stores have car seats on display as well as a vehicle seat you can practice installation on. Certain car seats are easier to install than others.
For example, with a Cosco Scenera Next, you would have to connect the Lower Anchors and then apply tremendous force to tighten it, while with a Britax Marathon Clicktight , you would just open the Clicktight compartment, thread the seatbelt through the belt path and close it. A CPST can guide you towards a seat that you can install correctly and that is within your budget.
How To Install A Car Seat
Every car seat is different. Most car seats can be installed either using the seatbelt, or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system. To learn how to install your particular car seat, read both your car seat manual and vehicle manual and follow the instructions to the letter.
How To Check For Proper Installation
Once you have followed all instructions for installation, you’ll want to check if your car seat or car seat base is installed properly. This method of checking goes for infant car seats, infant car seat bases, convertible car seats, and forward-facing car seats.
Grab the seat at the belt path with your non-dominant hand and move from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves less than an inch, you are good to go! If not, try tightening it further. If you still can’t achieve a tight installation, you may want to consider meeting with a CPST.
Where Can You Get Your Car Seat Checked?
You can get your car seat checked at the following venues:
These are often hosted by a Safe Kids Coalition at various times throughout the year. One or more CPST’s will be checking and fixing car seat installations at a set venue for a set amount of time. Appointments are sometimes required, and the event is usually free. These often take place at fire stations, police stations or community centers. To find an event click here:
One or more CPSTs will take the time to educate attendants (usually expectant parents or parents of new babies) on a plethora of relevant topics including car seat safety. They provide hands-on training on how to properly install a car seat in a vehicle.
Inspection stations host regularly scheduled car seat checks at specific dates and times. Note that while these can take place at fire stations, not all fire stations have a CPST on staff. The safest way to find a certified inspection station is to use the link below.
To find an inspection station, click here:
4.One on One Appointment
You can make an appointment with a trained CPST at a mutually agreed upon time and location. Some CPSTs may charge a fee. To find a CPST click here:
When Is The Best Time To Get Your Seat Checked?
The best time to get a car seat check is before the baby is born. Like with any other skill, practice makes better, and practicing harnessing can make those moments leaving the hospital much less stressful. It can sometimes be a lot more difficult to find time to learn how to install the seat after the baby is born. If, however, that ship has sailed, then the best time to get the car seat checked would be as soon as possible.
What Can You Expect?
When meeting with a CPST, you should expect to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour learning the optimal way to install and use your seat. Bring your car seat, car seat manual, vehicle manual and passenger with you if possible. Your CPST will fill ask you to fill out some paperwork while they check if your seat is recalled, damaged or expired.
After getting a sense of what knowledge already have, the CPST will discuss with you the optimal location and installation method for your seat based on your car, lifestyle, and other passengers. Then you will proceed to learn how to install your seat and practice harnessing. You should leave feeling confident in your abilities to install the seat again and harness the passenger properly.
Still Have Questions?
You can always come back to your CPST. CPSTs often have repeat customers when there is a new child in the family, or the child is ready for a new seat. Either way, the door is always open!