We are wrapping up Child Passenger Safety Week and wanted to create this post as a resource for parents and caregivers to refer back to throughout the year- not just during this one special week! We asked some of you to share your own car seat safety tips on our Facebook page and got an overwhelming response, so we decided to compile some of these tips and add some of our own. Read on and keep those little ones safe!
Tip #1: Check your car seat's expiration date.
Over time, the materials that car seats are comprised of can begin to break down, causing the car seat to lose its effectiveness in a crash. Check your instruction manual or call the manufacturer to find out how long your car seat is good for.
Tip #2: Harness your child in properly.
The straps should be at or below your child's shoulders when rear-facing and at or above your child's shoulders when forward-facing. Be sure that the chest clip is positioned on the child's chest at armpit level and not on the belly. If you are in a crash and the chest clip is not positioned properly, it's possible that internal organs could be damaged or the child could be ejected from the car seat. Lastly, ensure that the harness is tightened to fit as "snug as a hug"! If you are able to pinch any portion of the harness (either on the shoulders or at the hips), then it is not tight enough!
Tip #3: Remove all coats and snowsuits before buckling in.
Jackets, coats, snowsuits, and layered clothing has the potential to compress in a crash, causing the harness to be too loose on your child. Harness or buckle in, then cover up with a blanket or a backwards coat.
Tip #4: Rear-face until your child reaches the rear-facing weight or height limit (or at least until age 2)!
When a child is rear-facing, the car seat acts as a cocoon and minimizes the forces that impact the child in a crash, thus keeping your little one safer. Don't worry if their legs seem too long- a broken leg is better than a damaged spine or cracked skull, right? Just have them sit indian-style to be more comfortable.
Tip #5: Never, EVER put a car seat on top of the seating area of a shopping cart.
All it takes is one slight nudge to send this car seat tumbling to the ground. It's always best to put the car seat in the actual cart area to ensure that there is no way for it to fall out.
Tip #6: Do not use after-market products.
Products that did not come with your car seat, were not made by the manufacturer for your specific car seat, or have not been tested by the manufacturer with your specific car seat could affect the car seat's performance in a crash. Stay away from them, unless the manufacturer gives you its approval.
Tip #7: Don't allow your child to ride without a booster seat too soon.
Although they may complain about being in a booster, they must meet five requirements before it is safe to upgrade to using only the vehicle seat belt.
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
3. Does the seat belt cross the shoulder between the neck and the arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Is the child mature enough to stay seated like this the whole trip?
Tip #8: ALWAYS use a car seat.
No matter if you are on vacation, in a taxi, or just driving thirty seconds down the street, you should always use a car seat. It only takes second for an accident to occur.
Tip #9: Read both your car seat instruction manual AND your vehicle instruction manual.
Both of these manuals have tons of information and can tell you exactly how to install your car seat properly in your specific vehicle. Your vehicle may have special installation instructions or requirements that you would not be aware of otherwise.
Tip #10: Consult a CPST.
When in doubt (or even when you think you've installed correctly), visit a local car seat inspection station to have a certified child passenger safety technician check your installation. To find one near you, visit www.safercar.gov. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes, especially when the safety of your child is involved.
Obviously, there are so many other tips we could include here, but these are some of the mistakes that we commonly see. As always, be sure to strictly follow your instruction manual and reach out to the manufacturer if you have questions.
What other tips would you add to this list?