Last month, the Tri-Living Well blog posted an article about the importance of rear-facing car seats. Now we’ll cover forward-facing child seats and everything you need to know to keep your child safe.
How can I make my forward-facing car seat safer?
Since rear-facing car seats provide the best crash protection, many parents want to know how to make forward-facing car seats safer. An easy way to increase forward-facing car seat safety is to use the top tether strap. The top tether is a long seat belt material that connects the top part of the child seat to an anchor in the car. This additional connection makes the car seat installation more stable and prevents head injury. It usually takes less than one minute to attach.
This video demonstrates installing the top tether. There is a simulated crash showing the decreased head movement when using the tether.
Where are the top tether anchors?
All cars made after September 2002 have at least three top tether anchors. The anchors are normally located on the rear shelf of a sedan beneath the back windshield or the back of the captain’s chair in a van. Sometimes the anchors can even be on the ceiling. These anchors are specially installed and can handle hundreds of pounds of force. It is crucial to read your vehicle’s owner manual to know where they are located and not confuse them with other similar appearing anchors.
Types of car seats that can be used – forward-facing with the harness system
The two most common types of car seats installed forward-facing with the harness system are convertible car seats and combination car seats. While these two types of car seats sound the same, they are different.
- Convertible car seats are used for both rear-facing and forward-facing with the harness. Once children outgrow this car seat in the rear-facing position, they use it forward-facing.
- Combination seats are only used forward-facing. They are used forward-facing with the harness and as a booster seat.
Why is the harness system important?
The harness system is important because:
- It keeps a child properly positioned, preventing a child from slouching. This is especially important if a child sleeps in the car.
- It helps spread crash forces over the child’s body.
- Installing the car seat with the top tether prevents head injury.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children ride in a car seat with the harness system for as long as possible until the child reaches the maximum size limit listed in the instruction manual. Most children can ride in their forward-facing car seat until 5 to 7 years of age.
Tri-County Health Care offers free help!
Car seats can be confusing and Tri-County Health Care is here to help! Several nurses are certified car seat technicians and offer free car seat installation checks. Please call 218-631-7538 to schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician. The visit takes around 30 minutes and you should bring your child along. The certified car seat technicians have found that about 50 percent of installs are incorrect. Sometimes the straps are too loose, the seat is not tight enough, or the seat is the improper size for the child.
Child safety survey
The link below will take you to an optional survey about child passenger safety. This survey is anonymous and takes less than five minutes to complete.
About the author
Celine Durgin is a Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) medical student and attends the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is from Southeast Minnesota. Celine enjoys studying, hiking, and going to church. She plans on becoming a Family Medicine physician.