One quick way to find upcoming car seat check events or regular car seat inspection stations is to visit the state-by-state Safe Kids events listings. Your local hospital or law enforcement agencies may also have information on events or inspection stations near you.
What To Expect At A Car Seat Inspection
When you arrive at a car seat inspection station or a car seat check event, you'll probably be asked to fill out a short form with basic information about you and your children that will help the technician make appropriate safety recommendations for your family. If your car seat is already installed, the technician may look at the installation and how your child is secured, and make notes about any corrections that might need to be made.
Since four out of five car seats are used incorrectly in some way, don't feel bad if the child passenger safety technician has some suggestions for ways you could improve upon your child's car seat safety. Of the hundreds of car seats I've seen at check events and private appointments, only two have been entirely correct when they drove in.
The technician will likely check to see if your child's car seat has been recalled, ask about the history of the car seat and whether it has been in any crashes, and then teach you about car seat installation and use. You will probably be asked to participate in the installation. Once the child passenger safety technician has made recommendations and you're comfortable with the installation and usage of the car seat, you'll be finished. If you have questions that still haven't been answered, be sure to ask them now.
The recommendations given by a child passenger safety technician will usually be a mix of your state's law, the minimum safety standards and "best practices," or the ideal ways to keep children safest on the road. If you're not sure where a recommendation falls among those categories, ask. Similarly, most technicians are well-versed in the reasons for best practices recommendations, such as extended rear-facing or booster use beyond the age minimum set by law, so if you're on the fence about whether or not to turn your baby forward-facing or if it's really that important to take a booster on vacation when the law says you don't have to, ask for additional details.
Can I Just Have Someone Install The Car Seat For Me?
It's tempting when you're struggling with a difficult installation to just hand the whole thing off to someone else. However, if you go to an inspection station or check event and the technicians do the installation for you, the next time you need to install that car seat, you'll be back to square one. I recommend that you actively participate in the car seat inspection so that you're prepared to re-install the car seat whenever it is necessary. While there are some companies that will install car seats for you for a fee, consider that you can usually find an inspection station or car seat check event that is free of charge. Think of technicians as educators, not an installation service.
Why Should I Have My Child's Car Seat Inspected?
As I said above, it's estimated that four out of five car seats are used incorrectly in some way. An improperly installed car seat, or one that is being used incorrectly, may not work the right way in a crash. Accidental injury deaths are the number one killer of kids ages one to 14 in the U.S., and vehicle crashes top that list. If your child spends very much time in the car, the risk of serious injury is very real, but this is one threat that parents can do a lot to protect against. Having your child's car seat checked doesn't take much time, but it could make a big difference in the event of a crash.