Arias offered the following Top 10 car seat safety tips for parents and their children.
- Always read your child seat instruction manual and vehicle owner's manual to find the safest location to install the seat.
- Child seats should not be in front of an airbag. Exceptions are vehicles with front-only seating, which requires placing the child seat as far back as possible and turning off the airbag.
- The center rear is the safest position for a child restraint system. If vehicle does not allow safe installation in center rear seat, the passenger side seat is safest.
- Children under the age of 1 and weighing less than 20 pounds must be rear-facing.
- Children under the age of 6 and weighing less than 60 pounds must have an appropriate restraint system. However, it is recommended that children less than 8 years or 4'9" remain in a restraint system.
- A child seat must be installed snugly, and should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side from the belt path. The NHTSA suggests putting your weight into the child restraint system to compress the vehicle seat while tightening the safety belt as much as possible.
- Straps should be snug around the shoulder area. When rear-facing, straps should be at or below the shoulder. If forward-facing, straps should be at or above the shoulders.
- Be certain the child seat is leveled correctly and according to the instructional manual.
- Chest clips should be secured at a position that is level with a child's armpits.
- Never allow a child or child seat to lean on any of the vehicle doors, especially if side airbags or curtain airbags are present.
"One more thing may be overlooked," said Arias. "Parents should secure all cargo in the trunk, or use a cargo cover or net for open cargo areas."
"Expectant parents should see us, too," said Arias, who recommends having a car seat checked at least one month before a baby is born. "It can be a tricky process," said Arias, who noted that not all car seats are compatible with every vehicle and that written instructions from a manufacturer can be confusing.
"Parents are very grateful for what we do," said Arias. "Sometimes
they'll come in and say 'I've done everything; there's nothing more you
can show me about the seat.' After we go through the fitting they'll say
'Wow, I guess I really didn't know it all.'"