This post was written as part of the NZ Car Seat Safety National Communications Initiative. A version of the content below was provided to all participants for the July 2020 topic.
Why must a car seat installation be secure?
Having a car seat installed securely is vital to allow the child restraint to perform as it is designed to do, and in turn protect your child in a crash.
One of the main jobs a car seat has to do is reduce the movement of a child in a crash. It needs to stop the child from moving as quickly and as safely as possible. If the car seat itself has a lot of uncontrolled movement, the child within it is experiencing this uncontrolled movement too. The more movement a child has, the greater the chance of injury.
How can you check if your car seat installation is secure?
There’s a simple test to do to be sure a car seat installation is secure. Hold the child restraint beside its belt path – whether it is installed using a seat belt or ISOFIX/LATCH, the “belt path” is the point where the car seat is connected to the vehicle. Once you are holding it at the belt path, pull the car seat from side to side.
Does it move more than 2.5cm?
If the answer is yes, if you can move your car seat more than 2.5cm, then it’s not securely installed.
If you can move a car seat with your hand, imagine what the force of a crash would do to it. It must be secure.
Check your car seat’s instruction manual to find out how much movement is allowed with your particular seat. There are various ways that child restraint instruction manuals will refer to this movement, such as:
“less than 2.5cm”
“firm against the vehicle seat”
“not too much movement”
Some of these descriptions are a little vague, so using the “2.5cm rule” gives you a simple, precise measurement to use.
Don’t be surprised if you find your car seat is not installed securely enough. 2.5cm is not a lot of movement. Over 80% of car seats in New Zealand are not installed securely.
Is it difficult to get a car seat installed securely?
It’s not uncommon to have trouble getting a car seat secure. They are notoriously difficult to install properly. But your instruction manual should guide you as to how to install your child restraint securely. If this is not clear and you need help getting your car seat installed securely, make contact with your local child restraint technician who can offer knowledge, support and expertise.
Exception to the Rule
When we talk about the importance of having a car seat installed securely, we are referring to car seats with in-built harnesses, not booster seats. A booster seat is designed to move with a child and therefore should not be installed with less than 2.5cm of movement.
Where to Find Help with Car Seats
When installing car seats, use your common sense and you will be able to figure most things out. But always ask questions if you are not sure. A car seat is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment you will have for your child.
You will find help within the network of qualified child restraint technicians throughout New Zealand. Head to our website where you will be able to find a full list of these – find your closest CRT here. Give them a call, drop them an email or pop in and see them.