Car Seat Safety Tips

There are many new year’s resolutions and one should be a quick review of your child’s car seat. Mark it in your calendar to review the installation and use of car seats at least once a year. Wonder what to look for? Here are some car seat safety tips to consider, with great ideas from Safety 1st, a car seat leader.

car seat safety tips

Height and Weight Requirements for Car Seats

Are you following the law? Kids must be rear facing until they are one year of age AND at least 20 pounds. However, according to a study in the Journal of Injury Prevention, children under the age of two are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in the event of a car crash if they are rear facing, and the American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that children remain rear facing as long as possible. Many car seats on the market have more height and weight flexibility than ever before to enable parents to keep their children rear facing for a longer period of time.

Yet, don’t forget about the older kiddos. Booster seats are just as important as infant and toddler car seats. Most state laws require a child to be in a booster until 8 years old. There are additional studies, including one from Safe Kids, that show booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury by 45%.

Proper Car Seat Installation

Knowing the need for car seats, how you install them is just as important. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 75% of car seats are installed incorrectly. Can you believe it? That means 3 out of 4 car seats are not being used correctly! It is a simple fix too. Just head to your nearest Child Passenger Safety Technician. Most are at your local police department, but here is a link to find the one nearest you.

Securing Your Child

Now that you know to place your kids in the right car seat and that the car seat is properly installed, the next step is to make sure you have placed them in the car seat correctly. First, you want to make sure the car seat harness or car’s seat belt is properly snug. In the winter, this is a bit tricky with bulky coats (and something for adults to consider too.) A crash test that aired on the Today Show demonstrated how a secure dummy (meant to represent a small child) went hurtling out of a car seat because the winter jacket obstructed it from being fastened securely.

So it may be a good idea to remove the child’s jacket before securing him or her in the car seat. Then crank up the heat or keep a blanket in the car (we have a special car-only blanket for each of my kiddos) and drap over your child to keep them warm. They might think it is fun and cozy too!

Car Seats do Expire

We recently had to dispose of our car seats and get new ones because car seats do expire. (FYI, most car seats can be recycled. Check with your local waste management facility/provider.) You can find the expiration date on the back or the side of the car seat. It is usually about five years, but don’t rely on the five years starting from when you bought the car seat. Often, car seats are manufactured well before you buy it, so the clock might have started ticking up to a year before you put it in your car! Definitely check the date on the seat. Additionally, if a car seat has been in a crash you should not use it. Plastic can warp, materials can fray and the car seat will not protect a child correctly. So no used car seats. Even if it is for a second car, or just for the occasional grandma/grandpa use, or a great deal at a baby consignment expo. This is the one time you need to buy the real deal. To help pick a new car seat, check out the tips by Safety 1st.

Buckle Up Yourself

Kids watch what we do, so make it a New Year’s Resolution to put on your own seat belt. Or encourage teens to buckle up when they drive. While new cars on the market have tools to encourage seat belt use (a new one by Chevy that keeps the radio volume down until a seat belt is on), many of us don’t have those tech tools, so get creative with incentives, and lead by example. Even consider signing a safe driving pledge. There is a great one by PBS Kids.

Be Aware

Safe driving is key and is the number one safety thing you can do, but we often hear about stories of people forgetting their kids in the car. Get in the habit of placing your coat, phone, or purse (something you would need when you get out of the car) in the back seat. So you won’t forget an infant or a sleeping child when you leave the car.

Please Be Neat and Wipe the Seat

Despite the above tip in placing a purse in the back seat, you should consider not placing a lot of loose objects in the car. In the case of a car crash, you want to minimize projectiles that can cause more injuries to a child (and you!) So limit the amount of toys in the back seat, clean up trash, and secure groceries. If you have an SUV, use the canopy that came with the car to cover the exposed trunk area to limit flying can goods.

Lot of things to do to make this year a very safe year! 
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