Are you using this critical car seat safety feature?

Are you using this critical car seat safety feature?

Switching your growing little one from a rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat is an exciting milestone. But adults often forget one important and critical safety feature of the new seat: the top tether.

“In the rear-facing position, you don’t use the top tether. But when your child is facing forward, that top tether is needed because it prevents forward head movement,” says Alix McNulty, the manager of community outreach and population health for Advocate Children’s Hospital. “In the case of a crash, the top tether prevents them from flying forward and protects them from head, neck and spine injuries.”

The top tether is the strap with a hook that hangs from the top of the backside of a child’s car seat. The tether is attached and tightened on a vehicle’s tether anchors. These will be in different places depending on the type of vehicle. Parents and caregivers should check their vehicle owner’s manual for information about where to attach the tether.

While crucial to protecting a child from moving forward in the event of a crash, the top tether often goes unused because it’s not a feature in rear-facing car seats.

“This is one of the top three mistakes that I see in car seats,” McNulty says.

Those three mistakes include:

1. Inappropriate use of the harness, such as being twisted.

2. The chest clip not being in the correct spot. If your little one is bundled up in a coat, the clip may not be fitting right.

3. Inappropriate use of a car seat for the child’s age.

McNulty recommends keeping the child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Many states have a law on how long a child must be in a rear-facing car seat. Each state varies but provides an age and weight that must be surpassed before graduating your child to a forward-facing car seat.

If you’re unsure about any feature of your car seat, contact your local hospital’s car seat safety program.

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Katie Dahlstrom
Katie Dahlstrom

Katie Dahlstrom, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A storyteller at her core, she is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly five years working as a public relations professional for Chicago’s commuter rail agency, Metra. Outside of work, she enjoys birding, photography and spending time with her husband and dog.