September 23-29, 2018, is Child Passenger Safety Week.
With school back in session, I decided to create a true/false quiz for adults about child passenger safety, based on questions I often hear from parents and caregivers. See how many you get right! Of course, always read your seat and vehicle manuals for complete information about car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts.
Question #1: I should use both lower anchors and the seat belt to install a car seat.
This is usually false. You should use only one system unless the car seat and vehicle manufacturer instruct otherwise (and most do not). Either system offers the same level of safety when used correctly.
Question #2: If the center position of my back seat does not have lower anchors, I should use the inner anchors from the outboard seats (seats behind driver and passenger).
This is also usually false. Most vehicle and car seat manufacturers do not allow you to use lower anchors from the outboard seats in the center, so use the seat belt. Make sure it is locked.
Question #3: I should also use a tether to secure a forward facing car seat.
This is true. The tether is a strap with a hook on the back of a forward-facing car seat. Vehicles made after 2001 must have at least 3 tether anchors. They may be located on the ceiling, the back of the back seat, the cargo floor area, or the back shelf. See this Safe Kids infographicon why and how to use a tether for a forward facing car seat.
Question #4: I should stop using lower anchors to install a car seat when my child reaches a certain weight.
This is true as well. Most vehicle manufacturers state a weight limit for lower anchors of 65 pounds — that is the combined weight of the car seat and the child. Since February 2014, car seat manufacturers have been required to label the seat with the maximum weight of the child for lower anchors. So you don’t need to know what the seat weighs. If you have a seat older than February 2014, or cannot find this information on the label or in the manual, contact the car seat manufacturer for guidance.
Question #5: My child’s belt positioning booster seat has a set of lower anchor attachments. So I should not use the anchors if my child plus the booster seat weigh over 65 pounds.
Sorry, this one is false, although I can see why it’s confusing! With a belt positioning booster seat, the seat belt is restraining the child and would take the force of a crash. The anchors keep the seat in position, which is especially important when your child is notin it, because it could become a projectile. If the booster doesn’t have lower anchors, help your child buckle the seat in when he/she leaves the vehicle. See the Vermont Health Department’s BeSeatSmartwebsite and the UVM Medical Center Blog Give Your Child’s Safety a Boost!to find out more about booster seats, and when your child can “graduate” from a booster seat to a seat belt.
Question #6: Children should ride in the back seat whenever possible.
This is true. Children under age 13 should ride in a child safety seat or be properly buckled in the back seat on every trip. I’ll bet my parents would have liked to know this, since they were often refereeing arguments between me and my brother about who got to ride in the front!
Maureen Johnson, CSP, CPST-I, is a Child Passenger Safety Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Her brother is a retired NY State Trooper.