Is your child’s car seat installed wrong? Free car seat checks Monday

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Noblesville, Ind. (August 10, 2015) - Installing a car seat can be tricky, and if done wrong, it can be deadly.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is hosting a free child car seat installation and inspection community event on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Certified technicians will be conducting installations and inspections for all types of seats.

Allison Nicholson, Shasta Decker and Sgt. Scott Pass spent four days taking classes to get certified, and they say it's overwhelming for parents to figure out on their own when they're simply given the seat and an owner's manual.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 72% of car seats are not used correctly.

"It could be the difference between a broken arm or leg and a spinal cord or brain injury," said Allison Nicholson with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

"In the state of Indiana, the child has to be restrained in a child restraint until their 8th birthday," said Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Scott Pass. "And whether that be a booster seat or a forward-facing seat, until their 8th birthday they have to be in some type of child restraint."

Sgt. Pass says he often sees car seats used incorrectly, and sometimes not used at all, when he makes traffic stops.

"You can usually find a tactful way to talk about that and be helpful," said Sgt. Pass. "A lot of times the parent will really appreciate that."

He says many times the seats are too loose.

"It’s important that they be really tight. The manufacturers test them installed a particular way, so if they’re installed outside of that way, then it’s possible the seat may not afford as much safety as it could have if it was installed correctly."

The child must be rear-facing until they weigh 20 pounds. Riley Children's Hospital suggests the child be rear-facing until at least 2-years-old, not just 20 pounds.

"It’s the safest for the child," said Nicholson. "The new recommendations are actually to keep them rear-facing as long as possible, and definitely in the backseat is the safest. Some people don’t have an option, but if there’s an option to turn off the airbag, then definitely use that option."

"Make sure that it’s installed tight, and it doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction," she said.

Sgt. Pass says to be careful if getting a used seat or reusing a seat for another child.

"The seats have an expiration date. So if you’re using a seat from another child or a hand-me-down seat, you want to make sure that seat’s not expired. It’s usually six years from the date of manufacture. And you want to use a lot of caution if you’re using a seat that you got from an unknown source, a garage sale, or a hand-me-down seat that you don’t know the history of. Was the seat involved in a crash or something of that nature?"

Sgt. Pass says if the airbags deployed in the crash or body work needs repaired, you need to get a new car seat.

"We will show them how each car seat should be installed, let the caregivers also practice on installing the car seat and just give them some tips on how to do that," said Deputy Clerk Shasta Decker. "If you do bring your child, we can get a more accurate placement on what is the safest for the seat and how they are fitting with the harness and everything in the seat, but if you do not have the child we can still install it. We'll just let them know what they have to work on when they get home to see how the harness fits."

If you can't make the event on Monday, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will still help you for free. Call 317-773-1872 and ask for Shasta or Allison.

Be ready to provide the following information:

- The make, model and year of your vehicle
- The make and model of the child safety seat
- The height and weight of the child (unless child not yet born)

If you don't live in Hamilton County, click here or here to find a fitting station near you.