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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!

Audrey Boyd

Tuesday 1st of October 2013

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

Amy Butler

Tuesday 1st of October 2013

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

Jennifer Kincaid

Tuesday 1st of October 2013

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.

Serena Hazeltine

Monday 30th of September 2013

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!

RebeccaW

Monday 30th of September 2013

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