Car seat safety check an eye-opener for mom

Carly Munoz getting car seat safety check from Helen DeVos Childrens Hospital

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) Keeping your child safe is every moms number one priority.   You do everything from outfitting your home with plug covers, to stripping the cute blankies and stuffed animals from their cribs as infants.  You hover, you nurture them, you are there to catch them before they fall off their bike and you cut their food into itty-bitty bites until they are three so they don’t choke, but little did you know you may have missed an important step like I did.

When I was getting ready for baby  the first time, I did everything I was supposed to do, including taking my car seat to the free safety check provided by the fire deptartment and the good people at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  When it was time to install the toddler car seat (i.e. moving from the infant carrier to an actual car seat), I simply read the phone book sized instruction pamplet, watched a youtube video and called it a day.  I mean, at that point I wasn’t a rookie anymore.

Well months later as I prepare for my second child and getting two car seats into my car I proposed doing a segment for the mom of two and how to properly install both seats.  I’m so thankful for my friend and colleauge Maranda who agreed to do the segment.  I of course volunteered my vehicle, hauled the infant carrier up from the basement and headed off to work to get some friendly reminders on how to reinstall the baby seat. Little did I know the shock I was in for….

Fast foward to the safety check.

When the nice woman from HDCH, Jennifer, went to do the demo in my car, several red flags went off right away.  I’m almost too horrifed to say but because I want this to be a learning lesson for myself and others I’m going to share my mistakes.   I was actually told that 70% of car seats are improperly installed and sadly mine was one of them.  First and foremost  I had the safety belt looped and attached in the correct position (thank god), I didn’t actually have the seatbelt “locked”.  Don’t mistake this, it was “latched” but not “locked”.   What that means is the belt was buckled holding the seat in but the restraint needed to be pulled all the way out to a locked position then slowly fed back into position.  I also did not use the extra safety latch for SUV’s that straps over your seat and clips/tightens to prevent movement.

When she showed me what I did wrong, my eyes filled with tears.  How in the world did I not catch this?  I thought back to the frustrating day of the hieroglyphic-like instruction booklet, the back-up you tube video I watched and thinking, this must be right.   I thought of my sweet little boy riding around thinking I wouldn’t let anything happen to him and now knowing that he wasn’t as safe as I thought he was.  Jennifer reassured me that this is a common problem and that the best thing to do is move foward and fix the problem.  She taught me what to do and how to remember:


Buckle– The first thing you do on every car seat is buckle the belt in the appropriate position.

Lock– The second thing you do is lock the safety belt.  This is the step I missed.  So you need to pull the belt all the way out and feed it back in.  You know you’re doing it right when you here that ticking/clicking sound as it feeds back in.  This way if you got in a crash the belt would “lock” against the car seat just like it would if you the adult were sitting in it.

Tighten- Next you really put your weight into the seat, use your knee to weigh down the seat and PULL the belt as tight as you can, feeding the excess back.

A few other interesting pointers:

SUV’s.   If you drive an SUV like me, please remember the extra step.  There is a safety belt/latch attached to the back of your car seat.  It goes over your seat and latches to the back of the seat (inside your “trunk”).  Then tighten the belt.

Testing the seat: When you test the seat to make sure it’s tight enough, wiggle it from the base, by the belt.  Don’t grab the front and jostle it around.

Who should get their seats checked:


-Grandparents with car seats.

-Grandparents who “think” they know how to put your seat in their car.

-Care givers, babysitters ect.

-Parents installing their toddler seats or booster seats.

-Parents installing their infant carriers for the first time.

-Parents installing a toddler seat and an infant seat together.

Here’s a list of locations around West Michigan where you can get your free car seat safety check.


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