Is your child's car seat installed properly?

Every year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in crashes, mainly because 3 out of every 4 children in child safety seats are not properly secured, or even worse, not restrained at all, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It's currently Child Passenger Safety Week, which includes National Seat Check Saturday. It's an opportunity to make sure your car seat is installed properly.

Pennsylvania law requires:

  • Children under the age of 4 must be in a federally-approved car seat that is appropriate for the child's age, height and weight.
  • Children from age 4 until age 8 must use a booster seat if they are no longer in a car seat.
  • The state’s seat-belt law mandates that children ages 8 to 17 must use a seat belt, and violating this law is a primary offense.
  • It is a secondary offense for drivers and front-seat passengers age 18 and older to travel unbuckled.

To help ensure their child is safe in a crash, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges parents to guard against these mistakes.

1.  Not using a safety seat. Whether an infant, toddler or booster seat-age child, parents should always use the appropriate child restraint system every time their children are in a vehicle. Safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers according to NHTSA. And, using a booster seat with a seat belt for older children instead of a seat belt alone reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent.

2. Not reading safety seat instructions. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it’s important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing a seat to ensure it’s done properly.

3.  Using restraints for older children too soon. Whether it’s turning an infant forward-facing or progressing into an adult seat belt, parents frequently advance their children into the stage of safety restraints too soon.  In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations for rear-facing toddlers.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers not be turned to face forward until they are at least age two and the maximum weight for the seat. All children under age 13 should be placed in the back seat.

4. Installing safety seats too loosely. When a child safety seat is properly installed, it should fit tightly, and not move more than one inch in any direction. Use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the safety seat—but not both, unless approved by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. If using a seat belt, make sure it is locked to hold the seat snugly in place.

5. Adjusting seat harnesses incorrectly. Safety seat harnesses should always be snug and lie flat without twists. Harnesses should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing and at or above the shoulders when forward-facing in order to hold the child’s body upright and against the seat. The chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.

6. Keeping loose items in vehicle. Any loose items in a vehicle, such as purses, laptop bags or umbrellas can become dangerous projectiles in a crash or sudden stop and cause severe injury to a child, other passengers or the driver. Make sure to secure loose items and provide children with only soft toys to play with in a vehicle.

Below is a list of free car seat events scheduled in the Philadelphia and the surrounding area for Child Passenger Safety Week.  Appointments are required for most events.


Pennsylvania State Police

2201 Belmont Ave., Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013; 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call Trooper Danea Durham 215-452-5208

Gordon Chevrolet

6301 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 215-985-2534

Bucks County

Bucks County Department of Health

1282 Almshouse Road, Doylestown, PA

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013: 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 267-590-3510

Target Store

610 North West End Blvd., Quakertown, PA

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013: 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 215-249-9191

Babies R Us

330 Commerce Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 215-710-7078

Chester County

Pennsylvania State Police

2 Moxley Lane, Avondale, PA

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013; 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 610-906-2711

Paoli Hospital

255 W Lancaster Ave., Paoli, PA

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 610-906-2711

Faulkner Buick/GMC

705 Autopark Blvd., West Chester, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

No appointment necessary

Universal Technical Institute

750 Pennsylvania Drive, Exton, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 610-344-5389

Delaware County

Pennsylvania State Police

1342 West Baltimore Pike, Media, PA

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Middletown Fire Department

425 S. New Middletown Road, Media

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Schedule an appointment online at, or call 215-590-5437

Montgomery County

Limerick Fire Station

390 West Ridge Pike, Limerick

Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 610-278-5119

Abington Hospital

1200 Old York Rd, Abington

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 8 a.m. – noon

Schedule an appointment on-line at

Norristown Zoo (Booster Seat Distribution only)

1661 Harding Blvd., Norristown, PA

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

No appointment necessary; however, paid admission to Zoo is required, and child must be present to receive the booster seat.  For more information, call 610-278-5117 x6772.

For more information, the NHTSA has a website, Parents Central, which has tools and resources for keeping kids safe in and around cars

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