Guest Post: Car Seat Safety Tips Every Parent Must Know
Guest article from kidsittingsafe.com
Whether it’s the day you’re taking your newborn home from the hospital or the nth time of taking your toddler to visit grandpa, car seat safety is a piece of knowledge every parent should know before getting in a vehicle.
Car seats and boosters are engineered to protect children in the event of a crash, but their effectiveness can be compromised if they’re not installed and used correctly every single time you travel with your child. Here are some important tips to help keep your baby safe every time you put them in the car seat.
Find the right car seat
The first step is to choose the right kind of car seat for your child. This decision depends on a number of things such as size and age. Watch this helpful video on how to pick the right car seat type for your baby.
Rear-Facing Car Seat
Every baby should start with a rear-facing car seat up to the point they reach the maximum weight or height indicated by the car seat maker. Extended rear-facing car seats allow up to 2 years or more.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
After the baby reaches the rear-facing limit, they can move to a forward-facing seat with a harness. This is usually meant for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Many brands can carry up to 65 pounds and above.
When they exceed the forward-facing weight or height limit, all school-aged children should use a belt-positioning booster seat. Young kids are on booster seats until they are large enough to use a seat belt properly, which typically happens when they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and are 8-12 years old.
When children reach the height and age when the seat belt fits them properly, they should use lap and shoulder seat belts at all times. Children under 13 should stay in the back seat.
Find trained people to check installation
Research shows that most car seats are installed incorrectly. While it’s okay for a parent to install the seat, you should find a trained technician to check your installation for errors. Visit the NHTSA’s page and scroll way down until you see a search bar where you can enter your location and find certified techs near you.
The longer babies stay in rear-facing car seats, the safer it is for them.
Keep your baby rear-facing until the age of 2 or more or until they reach the height or weight limit of the car seat. This position reduces the risk of leg injuries in a crash, so don’t be in a hurry to put them in a forward-facing seat. This recommendation is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Keep straps snug.
One thing you don’t want are loose straps around your child. Always make sure that the car seat straps are properly secured every time you put your child in his car seat. This video from The Car Seat Lady should give you a better idea how to secure a 5-point harness in rear and forward-facing car seats.
Get rid of bulky clothing.
Remove any thick clothes, jackets, bedding, or bulky material when putting your baby in his car seat. These things loosen the straps around your baby and make them vulnerable during a crash. In a worse-case scenario, they can even allow the child to slip through their restraints, so remove that coat—yes, even during winter.
Keep your child as safe as possible when forward-facing.
Eventually, your child will move on to a forward-facing car seat. When this happens, make sure to use the tether strap found in every forward-facing car seat authorized for sale in the US. This strap attaches to a tether anchor point found in the headspace of your car. It doesn’t matter if the car seat is installed with a seat belt or the LATCH—every forward-facing car seat should always use the tether.
Everyone should use their seat belts.
When everyone in the vehicle (including adults) buckles up, passengers are safer. Unbuckled adults are a danger to children in the car as they can act as ‘missiles’ in the event of a crash.
The car’s center is safest.
A 2008 study found that the individual sitting in the center of the back seat had 13% higher survival rate than other passengers in a car. Parents should put the most vulnerable child in this position. This is usually the oldest child in cases where the firstborn is forward-facing and a younger child is in a rear-facing seat, which is 5 times safer.
After an accident, you may need to replace your car seat.
When your car was involved in a moderate or severe crash, the car seat needs to be replaced regardless of whether the car seat was empty or occupied during the crash.
Car seats expire.
Car seats have different expiration dates, but most of them expire six years after the manufacture date. Always check the expiry date of yours, especially when using a car seat for another child. This is also another reason why you shouldn’t buy second-hand car seats online.