Friday, June 19, 2009

Car Seat Installation: FAIL

Did you know four out of five child safety seats is not properly installed for maximum security and safe travel?

Brian and I did nothing to improve that statistic, as we both failed our Safe Kids infant seat inspection last night. :(

We each followed the instructions provided by our car manuals and the Graco infant seat manual, but it turns out those instructions are no where near clear or detailed enough.

Since the RAV4 is a new car, it has the LATCH system that makes installing child safety seats very easy. But what none of the instructions tell you is how and where the LATCH clips are affixed to the hidden metal support bars that make everything safe. So since I installed the car seat on the middle seat -- having read this is the safest place for baby, equidistant from both side-impact sources -- I ended up latching onto two two different LATCH systems, rather than one. So the friendly installation inspector moved my car seat base to the back passenger seat.

Brian's 2001 Diamante missed the LATCH requirements by a year, so he had the tough job of figuring out how to install the infant seat using some contorted arrangement of seat belts. He had done a pretty good job, but the State Trooper who helped him pointed out that he missed a piece to secure the seat belts and his cushy seats made for a loose installation. The solution? Swimmy noodles, of course! Seriously, the trooper started cutting foam swimming noodles to fit under the car seat base, so that the base was tightly secured to support the car seat at the proper 45 degree angle.

Since the LATCH system in my car is easy to maneuver, we feel comfortable removing and re-installing the car seat whenever necessary. For example, this weekend when we'll take our car to the Phillies game with Jess and Dave.

Brian's car, however? No freakin' way. That car seat base ain't moving until baby boy outgrows the infant seat and we have to return to the police station so they can tell us how to properly install a convertible seat.

This is the first baby product that has really surprised me: I can't believe how complicated and difficult-to-install these things are in cars that aren't that old!

Oh, and one other lesson learned. Ironically, I just added a car mirror to our Babies'R'Us registry on Wednesday. It has since been removed. The Trooper cautioned us against using any mirrors, shade screens, etc. because anything not secured to the car by the manufacturer has not been crash tested and could become a projectile or implement of injury in a crash.

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