Guide fitting your child's car seat so that you help to ensure your baby or toddler's safety when travelling.
Although purchasing a weight appropriate child restraint for your infant is the first step in keeping them safe whilst travelling, it is by no means the last. To ensure your child's safety in a vehicle it is essential to fit the seat properly and to regularly maintain its positioning in the car.
You should never fit a rear-facing child restraint in a seat with a frontal air bag because of the harm it could do in the event of a crash (in fact it is now against the law). Although some manufacturers allow the use of a forward facing car seat in the front seat (you should check your vehicle handbook for details) it is preferable to fit car seats in the rear of the car if possible. If you must fit a forward facing child seat in the front of your vehicle you should ensure that the seat is as far away from the dashboard as possible.
Although theoretically any car seat can be used in any car; because of the huge variety in size and shape of car interiors, you cannot guarantee a perfect fit. For this reason, after purchasing your car seat and before use, you should practice fitting it in any cars in which it may be used to check whether it is possible to fit it snuggly with little movement.
When fitting the car seat it is essential that you follow the manufacturer's instructions to the last detail, otherwise the car seat may not be secured properly and may not protect you baby in the event of a crash. You may also risk any insurance claims you make.
You should ensure that the seat belt passes through the right places on the car seat - some child seats can be used with 2 point lap straps or have alternate routes to use if the seat belt is too short. Once fitted it is essential to check that the buckle of the seatbelt does not rest against the frame of the child seat. If you find that it is you should alter its position - this is known as 'buckle crunch' and may result in the seat belt failing in the event of a crash.
When installing the child restraint you should push your weight into the back of the seat as you tighten the belt to ensure that it is fitted securely - there should be little forward or sideways movement and the belt should be pulled tight. You should make these safety checks on a regular basis and each time you take the seat out of the car.
Before you use your car seat practice putting it into and taking it out of the car. You will probably use a car seat to bring your baby home from hospital so it is worth practising before your baby is born. You will feel more confident about the safety of your baby.
All car seats are fitted with a harness; these are essential for your baby's safety. The majority of car seats have a one-pull harness, these enable you to adjust the fit of the whole harness simply by pulling one strap. However, it is important to read the fitting instructions as the exact way in which the harness adjusts varies depending on the make and model of the seat.
When you are ready to travel with your baby, the harness must be tight enough so that two fingers can just be inserted under the shoulder straps on your baby's collarbone. The harness straps need to be as close to your baby's body as possible. It is advisable to adjust the harness each time you use the baby seat as the fit will vary depending on the amount of clothes your baby is wearing. Additionally, you should not pad your baby's seat with blankets or pillows as this will affect the security of the harness.
If you are unsure about fitting your baby's car seat you should contact your local road safety officer who should be able to give you some advice on the matter.
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