Car Seat Safety: Snug as a Hug

Do you know if your car seat is installed or being used correctly? The answer most caregivers give to this question is ‘Yes, of course it is, how hard can it be?” According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) 59% of car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly.

Want to increase your odds that you are using it correctly? Follow the below guidelines. 


Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting/using a car seat: 

  1. Make sure to get the proper seat for your child. Children should be in each type of car seat to the max limits of the seat before moving up to the next step. 
  2. Can you use the car seat correctly every single trip? When using a car seat, the straps should be snug as a hug, with the chest clip at the chest, and harness straps either above (forward facing) or below (rear facing) the child’s shoulders. These requirements need to be met every time you put your child in a car seat. 
  3. Is there 1” or less of movement at the belt path (where the seat belt or lower anchors thread through the seat)? The car seat should be tight enough that there is no more than 1” of movement where the belt threads through, with the force of a firm handshake.
  4. Do you have it installed with the correct installation method? All car seats (including some boosters) allow you to install the car seat with either seat belt or lower anchors (LATCH), typically not both. 
  5. Read the manuals (car seat and vehicle). I know, they’re boring and have so many warnings, BUT they have great information in there. 
  6. All caregivers are encouraged to keep children in a car seat/booster until they can pass the 5 step test, which is listed below. Children typically pass this test around 10-12 years old.
  7. Make an appointment with a certified car seat safety technician. In order to be certified, a car seat tech (CPST – Child Passenger Safety Technician) must take a multi day certification course offered by NHTSA and SafeKids Worldwide. If you are unsure if a tech is certified, please ask to see their wallet card from SafeKids. 

5 Step Test

Step 1: Sit with back flat against the vehicle seat back, no slouching.
Step 2: Knees need to bend comfortably over the edge of the seat.
Step 3: Feet fully touch the floor.
Step 4: Lapbelt over the lower hips/upper thighs.
Step 5: Shoulder belt fully touches the shoulder and lays in a straight line over the chest.

Car Seat Installation Checks

SafeKids Worldwide (https://cert.safekids.org/) provides a list of certified techs in your area on their website. Linn County currently has 26 certified techs and has a SafeKids coalition in Cedar Rapids.

Do not go straight to your local fire or police department and assume they can check your car seat. Many do not have certified techs on staff.

Car Seat Assistance

Are you in need of a car seat for your child and just don’t have the resources?

Cedar Rapids has several organizations that can provide car seat assistance, which includes, Young Parents Network, Bridgehaven, and SafeKids Linn County. These organizations can offer resources to help you get the proper car seat for our child. If you are a recipient of a donation seat, please make sure a certified technician meets with you to ensure proper education on installation and use. 

Upcoming Car Seat Check Event

Let’s work as a community to make sure all kids are riding safely. SafeKids Linn County is offering a car seat check event at Lynch Ford in Mt. Vernon on September 22, 2022 from 4-7PM.

SafeKids Linn County offers other educational events throughout the year to help ensure our children are riding safely. 

Useful Resources: 

Car Seat Recomendations for Children
https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/carseat-recommendations-for-children-by-age-size.pdf
Safety/Child Safety – General Car Seat Safety Information
https://www.nhtsa.gov/road
Find car seat events in your area
https://www.safekids.org/
Find a car seat tech in your area and how to become a tech
https://cert.safekids.org/
Linn County SafeKids Coalition Page 
https://www.facebook.com/LinnCountySafeKids
Cedar Rapids Area Car Seat Safety 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/292864987580241

Guest Writer: Angela Tastad
I have been a certified CPST (car seat tech) for 12 years, and a CPST instructor for almost 1 year. I have extra training in school bus safety and special needs. I am a stay at home mom to 3 kids (8, 10, and 17 yrs) which allows me the time to follow my car seat safety passion as I have time. I absolutely love working with caregivers and families to make sure the kids in their care are as safe as possible when riding in vehicles.


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