How To Properly Install A Car Seat

As new parents or soon to be parents know, installing a car seat is a necessity but sometimes complicated. As recently as 2019, Illinois’ legislators updated the laws regarding where and how to properly seat children in vehicles. Although it may be obvious that children need to be in a car seat, some people are unsure of how to install it. Even more confusing for parents may be the transition stage from car seat to a booster seat. Luckily there are plenty of resources for parents and/or guardians to learn the proper installation of car or booster seats. The goal of this post is to highlight rules regarding the car seats and how to install them  

Laws and Regulations

At the beginning of 2019, Illinois legislators put into effect new laws and guidelines regarding children and car seats. In order to protect young children, it is important to install a car seat properly. Below is a guide for when children must be in a car seat and for how long.  

  • Children under 2 years old, under 40 inches tall, and weigh less than 40 pounds must remain in a rear-facing car seat. However:
    • If the child is over 40 inches tall or 40 pounds, then the car seat can be forward-facing or rear-facing. 
  • Between the ages of 2-3, children should still remain in a car seat. However, the car seat can be rear or forward-facing regardless of height or weight.
  • At ages 4 to 12, a child can transition to a booster seat regardless of height or weight.

Proper Installation: Car Seat With Seat Belt

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, NHTSA, has guidelines designed for car seat installation with a seat belt or anchors. The best way to know how to install your car seat is to check the car manual and the seat manual. Both manuals have important information regarding proper installation. Once you’ve read it, you can begin installing the base of the car seat in the back row of your vehicle. Then, you thread the seatbelt through the belt path facing the rear, without tangling the belt. After correctly threading the belt, you should lock the belt in place and give it a tug. The car seat base should not move side-to-side or front to back more than an inch. Finally, you should check the angle of the car seat base. Babies require a different angle to keep their airways clear. Once the angle is set and the base is secure you can attach the actual car seat to the base. 

Proper Installation: Car Seat With Lower Anchors

Similar to the above guidelines, the NHTSA has steps for properly installing a car seat with the anchors. Again, consulting both the car seat manual and the car manual is recommended. The car seat base should be placed in the back seat facing the rear. Then, using the car seat lower anchor attachments, connect the base to the anchors. Just like with the seat belt, you should keep the attachments from tangling. After attaching the straps, tighten them so that the seat cannot move more than an inch in any direction. As stated above, babies require a certain angle to ensure their airway is clear, so make sure your baby’s angle is set correctly. 

Car Seat Recap

If you have a child under the age of 2, then they need to be in a rear-facing car seat. Depending on their height and weight, the seat could be facing either front or back. At age 3, a child should still remain in a car seat that faces front or back. At age 4 and up to age 12, a child should make their transition into a booster seat.  Follow the guidelines, manuals, and installation instructions to avoid penalties and injury in case of an accident.