June 10, 2010 07:00 AM

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We all know that securing all car passengers — including mini ones — is super important. So in honor of National Safety Month (June!), we chatted with Regal Lager‘s president, Bengt Lager, and marketing coordinator, Elisabeth Bergöö to get their thoughts on car seat safety.

According to the Regal Lager team, about three in four car seats are incorrectly installed. But when mounted properly, they can reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants, and 54 percent for children ages 1 to 4. That’s why it’s key to set everything up properly from the beginning.

Click below for their top tips!

Keep children in rear-facing seats longer. According to Lager, an American Academy of Pediatrics ruling about flipping your child to a forward-facing position at 12 months (or 20 lbs.) is currently being reworked.

In the event of an accident, children who ride facing the rear are less affected by crash forces because the back of the seat acts as a buffer protecting a baby’s head and upper body explains Lager.

“If they’re facing forward, there’s nothing to protect their head so they jut forward in an unnatural way which can cause serious head injuries.”

For this reason, consider a seat with a fairly high weight limit — 33 or 35 lbs. — and maximum lengths of 30-32 inches for longer use. Lager also adds that the safest place for a car seat is generally the center backseat, away from any points of impact.

Don’t keep loose objects in your car. “Anything can become a projectile in a crash,” Lager warns. “Even simple things, like a bag of groceries in the backseat that happens to have cans in it.”

It’s best to put groceries in the trunk and keep trinkets to a minimum. Additionally, avoid hanging heavy-duty window shades next to your baby’s car seat — they could turn dangerous in a crash. “It’s better to use a thin, cling-on shade,” Lager says.

Be mindful of your car seat’s expiration date. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for. If you want to save money, buy less-expensive, yet good-quality seats that are brand-new suggests Bergöö. A car seat sold at a garage sale or on an online auction site doesn’t come with a history — so you won’t know if it’s been in a crash, or is expired.

According to Bergöö, car seats generally expire about seven years after purchase. “You can easily use one for two of your own children within that safe period, but the material in the product does age and deteriorate.”

If you’ve been in a crash, replace your seat. “Certain insurance companies will actually help you replace car seats after an accident,” Bergöö says. Though fender-benders will probably leave your seats unscathed, it’s better to be safe than sorry. She recommends visiting Britax to read guidelines on ‘minor’ crashes.

Check, and re-check, your installation. Be sure the seat’s reclined a bit when installed. “If babies, especially newborns, sit too upright, the head falls forward, and it can block the airway,” Lager explains.

As for the harness, adjust it so the anchor point is at shoulder level or below in a rear-facing seat (for forward-facing seats, it should be at or above shoulder level). “If it’s above the shoulder and you’re in a crash, it means a child can slide upwards and hit their head above the edge of the seat,” Lager says.

He suggests having an adult ride in the backseat next to the car seat the first few times your baby is in the car, to observe the position of the seat and harness.

Remember the one-inch rule. Want to ensure your seat is properly installed? Grab the base — it’s the part of the seat where the seatbelt or latch strap goes through — and try to move it sideways, forward and backward.

“It should move less than an inch in each direction,” Lager says. “In a crash, you want as little movement as possible, because that’s what absorbs the impact away from the child.”

Kate Hogan

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