Important Car Seat Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids

CarSeatSafety

I’ve been meaning to make a post about Car Seat Safety for awhile, and I finally had time to! There is nothing more important than keeping your child completely safe. When I first became a mom I never knew there were so many studies, research, and facts out there about what was safest. I thought you just put your baby in a car seat, strapped them in, and that was it. Wrong. There is so much more detail that you need to know. Facts that you need to know. Scrolling through Facebook at friends pictures I see so many incorrect car seat pictures, and I used to message these people and let them know why this should be done or why that should be done, but I never got a very good response back. I’m not really sure why as these are facts, and I’m trying to help keep their kid as safe as possible.

General Facts

1. Car seats (meaning infant carriers, convertible seats, and boosters) are only 100% safe if they are installed correctly and used correctly, 100% of the time. If you think your car seat is installed correctly, PLEASE check your manual, most of the time it isn’t. The car seat should NOT move more than an inch in any direction if installed correctly.

2. Chest Clips are just that, CHEST clips. They are NOT belly clips. A Chest Clip should ALWAYS be even with the armpits.

3. Straps should NEVER be twisted, and they should ALWAYS be snug. You should never be able to pinch the straps, they should be tight and snug as a hug.

4. Extended Rear Facing until at least age 2 is now recommended by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). I have heard so many excuses on why a child can’t rear face, and almost every single one of them I have heard is just not true. Some states are getting on board with making the law the same as the AAP recommendation, which is great. Rear Facing to 4 years of age (or until the limits of the seat) is safest and recommended by the NHTSA.

5. When Forward Facing, the straps need to be AT or ABOVE the shoulders. When Rear Facing, the straps need to be AT or BELOW the shoulders.

Extended Rear-Facing

ExtendedRearFacing

The recommendations for Rear-Facing is now 2 years old by the AAP. The reason for this is rear-facing until age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be injured when in a rear facing seat. That’s a VERY high number. The laws for your state, you have to remember are the BARE MINIMUM. Just because they reach age 1 AND 20lbs, doesn’t mean it’s time to turn your baby forward. Keep them safe. Babies and toddlers have spines made of soft bone and cartilage that doesn’t begin to harden until around age 3.  As a result, the spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches. However, the spinal cord will rupture after being stretched after only ¼ inch.  This damage cannot be repaired.

There are so many seats out there on the market now that can keep your child rear facing to 35-40lbs! Why do the minimum for your child, do the maximum limits of your child’s seat. Rear Facing to 4 years of age (or until the limits of the seat) is safest and recommended by the NHTSA.

Here are some excuses I hear a lot:

-My child’s legs are too long to be rear facing.- OK, says who? Most children sit with their legs bent anyways, not to mention in the event of a crash while rear facing, isn’t it easier to have a cast for a broken leg (which is very very unlikely to happen) than it is to buy a casket for your child? In fact, it’s more likely for a child to have injuries to the lower extremities while forward facing, read HERE.

-My child prefers to be forward facing. -As a baby or toddler, they shouldn’t have a preference, they shouldn’t be turned around to be giving the chance to be forward facing. To me this seems like an excuse for the parent, rather than the child.

-My child is too big/old.- That’s not the case either. There are MANY seats out there on the market that allow for Extended Rear Facing up to very high height/weight limits. You just have to shop around. If you need help, please ask. I’m more than willing to help!

Please don’t turn your child forward facing because of the law/minimum. We should only want the maximum for our children, after all, they are precious cargo and we should only want the best for them, as well as the safest. Please don’t turn them around for your convenience either, yes it may be more work securing your child in Rear-facing, but those extra few moments in doing so, could save your child’s life. You may drive safe and be extra cautious, but you NEVER know about the guy next to you.

Forward-Facing

Forward Facing

Forward Facing I wouldn’t recommend until age 2, but even age 3 (or longer) if your child is still in the requirements allowed by the maximum seat limits. When Forward Facing your child, make sure the seat is installed correctly (just like any other seat). Use either a locking seat-belt or the LATCH system, whichever you can get a better install on. Make sure the harness straps are snug with no slack. Harness straps should be AT or ABOVE the shoulders. Forward Face your child to the MAXIMUM limits of your seat, if you have a seat with low limits, then get a new seat (I recommend the Evenflo Maestro, Graco Nautilus, and the Britax Frontier 85) with higher limits. These seats also turn into high back boosters once the 5 point harness is outgrown, keep your child in a 5 point harness as long as you can. When forward-facing make sure your car seat is tethered, there will be a strap on the back of your seats and most vehicles have tether points (please see your car seat manual as well as your vehicle manual). Using the tether will stop the top of the car seat from moving forward in the event of a crash.

Boosters

Make sure your child is old enough and mature enough to sit in a booster, as well as meet the requirements for height/weight. It’s very important that a child be able to sit up straight, no slouching, no bending, no falling over, 100% of the time to sit in a booster seat. I personally recommend at least age 6 before moving to a booster seat. If you are using a booster I recommend a High Back Booster. This allows the seat-belt to fall across your child in the proper place to secure them correctly. Do not ever allow your child to put the seat-belt behind them. It should go across their shoulder and chest correctly. If it doesn’t they are not using the correct seat. Seat belts are designed for people who are at least four feet and nine inches tall, that may not be until your kid is 10 to 12, so keep them remaining in a booster until then. A seat belt that doesn’t fit properly can do more harm than good, piercing internal organs, damaging the spinal cord, or, if the shoulder strap is improperly fitted, seriously injuring the head.

Here are some other important facts to remember about car seat safety:

  • Never use ANY after market products with car seats other than anything manufactured for the seat by the company who makes the seat. This includes car seat covers, piddle pads, strap covers, seat protectors, or head/body supports. Some of that stuff may seem cute and practical, but it’s not safe.
  • Always install your car seat with a seat-belt OR LATCH, not both, and make sure the car seat doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction. If it does, it is NOT installed properly. Put your weight into the seat when tightening the seat-belt or LATCH to get a tight install.
  • In the event of a car accident, replace your car seats whether your child was in them or not. Your insurance (or the other party) WILL replace them. Cut the straps of the car seat so it cannot be reused, and throw it in the trash.
  • All car seats have a date of manufacture as well as a date of expiration. Check your seat and/or manual as all car seats have a general expiration date of 6 years. Plastic weakens over time with heat/cold temperatures, and if it’s past the date of expiration, your seat may not work properly in the event of an accident. When a seat is expired, cut the straps and toss the seat in the trash, so it cannot be reused.
  • Do NOT ever submerge the car seat harness straps into water, you can wash them off according to the directions in your manual. Usually with water and a mild soap. Same goes with the cover to your car seat, ALWAYS reference your owners manual for care. You can always find your car seat manual online if you do not have the copy that came with your seat.
  • When it comes to your child and the car seat, ALWAYS do the maximum for your child’s safety.
  • NEVER buy a used seat unless you know directly (and trust) the person it came from. You never know what has happened to a used seat. It may have been in an accident, the straps could have been submerged, there are many different scenarios that could have happened to that seat.
  • If you can’t get your car seat installed correctly, find a certified technician HERE that can help you.
  • Your baby, toddler, or child should NEVER wear any bulky clothing such as a jacket, snow suit, etc while in a car seat of any kind. The clothing will compress in the event of a crash and your child will not be fully protected. If it’s cold out, have your child wear a thin fleece jacket and use a blanket. You can even strap your child in and put the jacket on backwards OVER top of the straps.
  • Most importantly be a good role model for your children. Wear your seat belt correctly, not texting/calling while driving, make sure all your attention is on driving.

If you have any questions AT all, PLEASE ask for help!!! I hope this post helps you!

Comments

  1. Mrs Ransome says:

    Great information!

  2. Thanks for posting this – I am a Child Restraint (car seat) Technician in Canada and think that you have put together very thorough and useful information. I agree it can be hard to share tips with people when you see something specific happening so a blog post like this is great!

  3. Dominique Abshire says:

    Great article! I have a few questions: Why do they recommend using a seat-belt or LATCH separately, but not both? Also, when do children usually move from a car seat to a booster seat?

    • darcibean says:

      They are not tested using both, so that’s why it’s safe to use just one. As for when do children usually move from a car seat to a booster, it depends on the height/weight/maturity of the child.
      I personally won’t move mine to a booster until around age 6. I think at that age they are mature enough to sit up correctly 100% of the time to use a seatbelt correctly.

      • Jennifer Meyer says:

        Actually, I spoke with someone at the Children’s Hospital Trauma Center, you are not supposed to use both because each option singly is designed to allow the seat to have a SMALL amount of give in the event of an accident, the way a seatbelt does, to help absorb some impact. If you use both the Latch and seat belt, your seat is literally too tight, and cannot flex in the event of an accident to absorb any impact.

  4. Thank you for all this! Safety info is definitely something we need to stay informed on.

  5. Great list! I would also like to add to pay attention to the max height as well as the max weight of the seats. Both of my sons outgrew their infant carrier seats by height before they were even remotely close to the max weight limit.

  6. Ali's Mommy says:

    That’s the reason I have bought Britax for my daughter, safety, comfort is a bonus! The versa tether really does hold our Britax roundabout 55 in place its almost impossible to move the seat when properly installed. Thank you for taking the time to explain safety features and installation of car seats:)

  7. Melissa Daudelin says:

    Thank you for this post! One of my biggest pet peeves is when my friend post pictures on their little ones NOT properly strapped into their seat. One friend’s little one’s straps were all twisted and hanging off his shoulder….and YES I did private message her. She didn’t respond. 🙂

  8. Bailey Vazquez says:

    I love carseat safety reminders. Especially when they teach me something new – I didn’t know that the strap height changed when you turn them forward facing! Going to move the straps up now before we take our next car ride. I’ve had them below the shoulders forward facing this whole time… yikes!

  9. Racquel S says:

    This is great information to have…I didn’t know all these things to look for when fitting my children or moving them up!

  10. krystle gluck says:

    I didn’t realize that it is more likely to have a child to have injuries to the lower extremities while rear facing.

  11. Installation is key to a child’s safety.

  12. Rebecca Parsons says:

    I honestly didn’t know about being faced towards the back up till the age of 2.

  13. This is great information for new parents who have never installed a car seat before and for parents who havent had to install car seats in a long time like me

  14. Thanks for sharing this – my only two comments would maybe be to add (1) the 1 inch rule for rear facing, once you reach one inch of shell remaining above toddler’s head it’s time to buy a new seat (if you continue to rear face) and (2) only use LATCH up to 65 lbs (weight = toddler weight + seat weight) then switch to seat belt. Your article is VERY well written and covers all the points I’ve seen highlighted on safety sites. Car seat safety is vital because babies/toddlers are NOT small adults, no matter how much we may wish they were.

  15. Thank you so much for posting this. You have so many reader , and I believe you can help save a child’s life just with this post.

  16. Elise Zarate says:

    Honestly, I knew all these car safety facts already, because I am expecting my first baby in February and I have been doing a lot of research! But thank you for posting this so others can get this information. So many are misinformed!

  17. I didn’t know that harness straps could be below the shoulders when facing backwards, I always thought it had to be at the shoulders. thanks for the info!

  18. really wish we could afford this

  19. Bethany Saldana says:

    Wow! I didn’t know it was recommended to have kids rear facing until 4 years old! That’s a long time!

  20. Cynthia Sizemore says:

    thank you for the very important information. I think everyone should know these facts.I didn’t know that the info that you usually see for rear facing seats is the minimum.You would think the laws would be less lenient.i was putting my grand children in danger in front facing carseats and didn’t realize it.I feel so terrible about this.That will change right now,thank you for looking out for the safety of children.

  21. Rear facing until at least age 2 is now recommended

  22. nancy scaggs says:

    I like the fact that this is the only car seat youll ever need. it goes from newborn to 70 lbs. as high as car seats are you get your moneys worth with this one.

  23. Wonderful Advice!

  24. I learned that the proper position for a chest clip is at armpit level!

  25. jennifer aikens says:

    This is a wonderful post with a lot of information. I have a 1 year old and she will be rear facing for awhile. I belong to a mama’s group of all women that were due in August when I was. There are SO many excuses I have heard where people ff even before the kid turns 1! The most common excuse is that the baby will cry unless they can ff and see mom or dad. This excuse is piss poor for the fact that you would never give a child a gun, knife, or anything they can EASILY hurt themselves with without much effort just because they were screaming for it. I totally understand how the screaming can make you insane but the more stubborn you are to give into baby the quicker they are to get over their own stubbornness. It’s sad how many children are put at risk willingly by their own parents who think they are doing “the right thing.”

  26. I didn’t realize that the shoulder straps had to be below the shoulder for rear-facing!

  27. I learned that extended rear-facing is now recommended by the AAP.

  28. Gina Hiskes says:

    I proudly (PROUDLY!) drive around with a sticker on my back window that says “My Toddler Rides Rear Facing, Ask Me Why!” My 2 year old has never forward faced in her life, and I don’t hear one peep or complaint out of her about it. Why would I?! It’s all she’s ever known! My 3 year old had spinal surgery when she was 8 months old and was in a spinal brace for 4 months afterwards, and that was for a genetic problem. I can’t imagine if it would have been from a car accident, and the problem was something that could have been prevented. The excuses drive me crazy. 2 years rear facing is a minimum, I totally agree on that one!

    Sorry, this has been my novel. I’m so passionate about it!

  29. I never knew to cut the straps of a carseat involved in a wreck. That’s smart!

  30. What a great car seat, my grandson would be real safe while traveling in the car in one of these.

  31. What a great psa – I learned that the AAP upped it’s rfing rec to 2 years. Yay! I ERFed my granddaughter until she was 5 but her mom, who works for a peds office, turned her at 12 mo. b/c she could. :\ I’ll have to make sure she knows that it’s 2 now. Altho’ I might tell her it’s 3 now. lol.
    Robin Phillips-Knotts
    cokelush at gmail

  32. Cynthia Brooks says:

    Great article. I don’t think a lot of parents know all this stuff. I kinda do because I was a car seat nut. 🙂

  33. Jessica Parks Wiese says:

    I didn’t really learn anything new, but only because I am already a child passenger safety technician. 🙂 You covered a lot of information and you did a great job of it. Its all stuff that I wish I had known 5.5 years ago with my first child. I brought her home in a used seat from craigslist, with after market strap covers, aftermarket infant insert/headrest and a bundle me. All big no no’s. So thankful that I know what I do now! I am grateful that I become very education on all of this when she was 6 months old, and I wash shopping for a convertible seat. She ended up rear-facing for almost 3 years. 🙂

    Great blog post!

  34. I learned for rear facing, the shoulder strap needs to be at or below the shoulder, and for front facing, it needs to be at or above the shoulder.

  35. I didn’t realize that you should really keep your child rear facing until 4. Wow! I want to keep my kids safe.

  36. My mother in law thinks I am crazy for wanting the best seats and being so picky about how they are installed and how my child is buckled…. But thanks for sharing your info, it is so good for people to be aware because alot of people are just like my mother in law and they are uninformed!

  37. laurie nykaza says:

    Rear facing till 2 is so important and i’m sure many people don’t realize this is what you should do for your little ones. Not putting them in the seat with heavy clothes is important and giving them a blanket is a great idea.

  38. Susan Johnson says:

    The car seat rear-faces, because I’m neurotic about safety, but I had no idea that forward facing car seats put a child that much at risk for injury or death. A 75% difference is an incredible one! Thank you for the very informative review, I will definitely double-check things just to make sure!

  39. Ronnie Owens says:

    Side impact is so important.

  40. Jenni Jones says:

    Thanks for this post! As a CPST, car seats are my hobby!

  41. Great information! I never would have thought of not submerging the straps of the car seat. I also hadn’t thought of cutting the straps when disposing of a seat so someone else can’t try to use it.

  42. Jessica Strudthoff says:

    I learned that the harness should be at or above the shoulders forward facing but at or below when rear facing. I always thought it was at or above both ways.

  43. This is a really great post. We took a parenting class and learned about all safety info but never everyone gets to do that. THANKS!

  44. Christine Mark says:

    Thanks for sharing the tips. Not a lot of moms know how to properly ensure safety so this is great!

  45. Heather Moore Sutter says:

    To be honest, from this article I learned to really do your homework on your own! When I had my 3.5 yr old, they told us 1 yr he can turn around. When I had my other son, 15 months later, the drs office said rules still the same as before, and I even had a nurse tell me that they can be out of a booster completely around 50-60 lbs! I just wish that these high back booster seats/ larger car seats weren’t so expensive! Both of my sons are broad muscular big boys as it runs in both mine and my husbands family. (Daddy is 6’4″ and is the runt of their huge family!) anyways, my 3.5 yr old is 55 lbs and 3’7″. That’s where I am unclear about the rear facing rule..

  46. Our doctor told us that we could turn our son around after 1 year but I kept him longer than that. My husband started to throw out his back (literally) when putting our lug of a son in RF so after trips to the chiropractor and all, I finally gave in. Our son loves FF but I still worry about him. He is not in the car very often but it only takes one time. He will be 2 in Dec so he only has a bit to go for the extended recommendation. My mom argued the point about me putting him FF (she has 6 kids ages 28-7) and she does not believe in the whole “extended RF”. She said that a child can get just as hurt RF because they can break their legs, hip and there are main arteries in both legs which a child can bleed to death in minutes. I know that people can argue that they have not found any events like that BUT I have came upon SOME comments from people (while researching) that it has happened before which then get the whole “a broken leg is better than a snapped neck”….

  47. Rachel E. R. says:

    I have to tell my friends all the time about putting the chest clip at armpit level and having them tighten the straps so they are snug on their kids. Sometimes I have been able to put my whole hand under the straps they have been that loose! Always good to share this info over and over again, so thanks!

  48. A lot of parents I know weren’t happy when the rear facing was extended to 2 years, but here I learned it can go to age 4 depending on weight. Wow! I will be happy to let my child stay in whatever position is safest.

  49. natalie nichols says:

    I’m glad you addressed the ERF issue. I have friends who still just don’t care and turn their kids around at like 9 months.

  50. I learned that it is now recommended that children stay rear facing until they are at least 2 years old.

  51. With all of the changes that take place when it comes to child seat safety, I think that it is important to keep up to date on them. You really put a lot of work into this post, and I thank you for doing it. Now when I see parents who post photos of their children improperly buckled, I will just leave a link to your post. Thank you 🙂

  52. Celine Angulo says:

    Just in this past year I have become VERY aware of car seat laws and safety. I cannot STAND seeing children EVERYWHERE forward faced too early/chest clips at the belly. I see it everyday, whether it be Facebook or in public!

  53. I love the excuses part of the post 🙂

  54. Brooke Wells says:

    75% less likely to be injured when rear facing!

  55. Amy Clendenin says:

    I’m pretty up to date on car seat safety and have my 2.5 year old rfing still, so i didn’t really learn anything. But i will say this is great information given for the typical parent who might not have done much research on the topic,

  56. Sandy Chiang says:

    I learned that the there are 75% less injury when the child sit rear facing!

  57. Jennifer Meyer says:

    I learned just how many people out there are unaware of this information!! I have seen so many moms moving kids forward facing early so their child can “see the world” and have heard so many excuses. I guess the safety I took for granted and the desire to protect my child is just something others don’t want to learn about!

  58. i learned the recommendation for rear-facing is now 2 years

  59. Matthew and Bridgette S says:

    So many people do not take car seat safety seriously. After having some love ones killed because their car seats were not installed right I am taking all precautions to make my children safe while traveling. We need more information about car seat safety. Thank you for posting!

  60. I am always SO ecstatic to see more and more people getting on board and educated about ERF and also car seat safety in general. Doing the minimum is not doing the best! Love this * 100!

  61. Thank you for bringing writing this up for people. It’s amazing how people use the phrase “Oh, that’ll do” when it comes to carseats. But wouldn’t think the same thing in regards to their own seatbelt!

  62. Christine Mayfield says:

    I learned that you should let your babies face rear longer at least 2 years.

  63. Kayla gross says:

    Thanks for posting that the seat belt and latch cant be used at the same time. I have been using that for awhile now 🙁

  64. great info

  65. Great car safety info! Rear-facing until at least 2 is VERY doable. Thanks for letting people know how important it is.

  66. LaToya Townsend says:

    I plan to stay abreast of car seat safety regulations because as a FTM, there is so much to know. I was surprised that the child should be rear facing for 2 years and not 1.

  67. I learned that we need to make sure we are using the car seat correctly. This means chest straps at the chest etc.

  68. A lot has changed since having my first. With the rear facing guidelines now being 2 years of age, it still amazes me that many manufactures still have short ranges for weight and height.

  69. Renee Walters says:

    This is great info. Thanks so much! I learned a lot.

  70. Facing rear until they are 2 years old!

  71. I learned that you should never install the car seat with both the latch or seat belt

  72. Michael Lambert says:

    This is a lot of great information. My wife has done a lot of research and has shared a lot with me. My daughter is still rear facing so I don’t know enough about forward facing and using boosters yet. I learned they should be about 6 years to use a booster seat.

  73. Thanks for the info! I feel confident that my children are buckled safely and appropriately.

  74. Christina Strapp says:

    I learned that some states are going with the recommendations of the AAP and making it law .

  75. I learned that the chest clips are supposed to be even with the armpits.

  76. Serena Hazeltine says:

    There was a lot of information provided in your post that I was already aware of,however I did not know that seat-belts were designed for those who were 4’9″ or taller…very helpful info 🙂 thanks!

  77. Jennifer Kincaid says:

    I did not know that in forward facing seats the harnesses should be at or above shoulder level. I had just assumed it was below like in rear facing.

  78. Amy Butler says:

    This is a great article. I’m a new grandmother and things have changed so much since my kids were in carseats that this answers a lot of my questions as to which seat I need to get for my car. Thanks

  79. Audrey Boyd says:

    I learned not to submerge the straps of the car seat. I am assuming this is because they will stretch more if you do?

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