September is baby safety month which increases consumer awareness of safety issues and focuses on choosing safe products for your babies. A safe car seat is incredibly important in our busy, on-the-go society, but seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly.
These car seat safety tips will help you choose the correct car seat and help you use it properly so your baby stays safe.
Rear or Forward-Facing?
Car seats come in both rear and forward facing designs. Choose a rear facing car seat until your baby is at least 2 years old. It protects a baby’s head, neck and spine well.
After 2 years of age, your child can usually use a forward facing car seat. Most manufacturers specify your child must weigh around 20 pounds. Install the seat in the back of the vehicle and secure it with the seat belt and top tether, or the LATCH system if your car seat includes it.
Car seat models are tailored to your child’s weight, height and age. You can use this handy tool from Safercar.gov to assist you when you want to buy. Alternatively, you can check the label on the car seat. It states the appropriate range for weight, height and age along with the expiration date.
Research the Car Seat
While it might be tempting to buy a used car seat from a thrift store or off the internet, you need to know its history. If the car seat was in an accident it may no longer be structurally sound.
In addition, car seats deteriorate over time and are not safe to use beyond their printed expiration date.
Install the Car Seat Properly
Once you find a suitable car seat, you’ll need to install it properly. They usually come with detailed instructions, because installing the seat properly is critical to the safety of your child. You can perform a few basic tests to check your handy work.
First, once you’ve installed the seat, tug it near the base – it should not move more than an inch in any direction.
Second, with your child in the car seat, buckle the straps. Ensure the chest clip is at armpit level. If you can pinch excess webbing on the strap at your child’s shoulder, tighten it a bit more and try again.
Don’t Leave Your Child Unattended
A car seat protects your child while in the vehicle, but this doesn’t mean you can leave them in it unattended. KidsAndCars.org states an average of 37 U.S. children die annually from heat stroke in vehicles, most under 3 years of age. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in minutes.
Even if your child’s asleep, take them out of the car seat when you leave the vehicle. Make it a habit to always check the back seat before you lock the car, too. Sadly, most deaths occur because the driver’s distracted and doesn’t realize they forgot their child in the car – until it’s too late.
Car seats work well when matched to your child’s height, weight, and age. There’s no need to move to a booster seat unless they outgrow their car seat.
However, you may need to move to a booster seat if your child’s shoulders are above the car seat’s top harness slots or if your child’s ears are above the top of their car seat.