Infant and child car seats may seem pretty straight forward, but most parents are surprised how little they truly know about their children’s car seats! Car seat safety is important and taking some simple precautions and measures to protect your child could ultimately save his or her life in the event of a crash. Here are some tips for keeping your child safe in his or her car seat.
Always Read the Seat’s Manual
Each car seat comes with a manual that details the proper and correct usage of that particular seat. It is important for parents to read the manual to ensure they are aware of any special issues or features that may present themselves with a specific seat.
Fill Out the Product Registration
Filling out the product registration for your child’s car seat may seem unnecessary, however, by filling it out and registering your product, you are ensuring that you will be alerted in the case of any recalls or safety issues in the future.
Know the Seat’s Height and Weight Limits
Different car seats have different weight and height limits. It is important to be aware of these limits as well as your child’s height and weight. If your child is in a seat that they do not fall within the height and weight range of, the seat may be ineffective in protecting your child during a crash.
Rear-Face As Long As Possible
Children are safer facing rearward as long as possible. Although you can turn your child forward facing at one-year-old and twenty pounds, it is safer to keep them rear facing as long as the height and weight limits of your child’s car seat will allow.
Ensure Straps Are Tight Enough
Your child’s car seat straps should be snug against your child’s body. A good rule to follow; your child’s straps should be snug enough that you cannot pinch the straps, or insert more than one finger behind the straps.
Ensure Shoulder Straps Are in the Correct Position
If your child is forward facing, the should straps should be at, or above your child’s shoulders. If your child is rear facing, the shoulder straps should be at or below your child’s shoulders.
Keep Straps Tangle-Free
Your child’s car seat straps should never be tangled. Prior to placing your child in his or her car seat, do a quick visual inspection for any tangles. If there are any tangles or twisted straps, correct them before placing your child in the seat.
Ensure the Seat is Installed Tightly
You should not be able to move your child’s car seat more than one inch from left to right or front to back. If you’re able to move the car seat more than an inch, you will need to tighten the belts, or LATCH harnesses.
Avoid Winter Jackets
This can be a pain during the colder months, but winter jackets should never be worn beneath the straps of a car seat. In order for the car seat to effectively protect your child, the straps need to be as close to your child’s body as possible. A winter jacket can create several inches of cushioning between the straps and your child’s body, which reduces the effectiveness of the seat. If you live in an especially cold climate, have your child wear a thin, fleece jacket underneath their winter coat to the car. Once your child is in the car, remove the winter jacket, and buckle their seat over their thin jacket.
Never Use a Used Car Seat or Seat that Has Been in a Crash
Unless you know the full and detailed history of a car seat, you should never use a used car seat, or a seat that has been in a crash. Even if the seat appears to be functional and in good condition, a crash can affect the car seat’s effectiveness and place your child at risk.
Know the Seat’s Expiration Date
Believe it or not, car seats expire. The materials in a car seat can get old and brittle, making them less effective. Pay attention to the dates stamped on these car seats and abide by them. If you can’t find the expiration date, contact the manufacturer.
Do Not Alter the Seat
Do not alter your child’s car seat in any way. This includes add-on toys, or changing the covers on the car seat. These items can negatively impact the effectiveness of the seat and may place your child in harm’s way.
Get Regular Car Seat Check-Ups
Most fire stations offer car seat check ups. A specially trained person can inspect, adjust and reinstall your car seat if necessary, ensuring the seat is safe for your child. These check ups are a good idea to utilize every few months. If you have any questions about car seats, you may be able to ask these technicians as well.
Car Safety Seats: Information for Families 2010
Car Seat Safety Tips