Five Car Seat Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know
If you have a young child, chances are you’re using a car seat. You may have done your research to make sure you’re using a safe model, but are you actually using it correctly? Some reports estimate that 95 percent of newborns are in an improperly installed car seat. Approximately 75 percent aren’t faced the right way, while older kids who should still be riding in booster seats aren’t.
Between 2010 and 2014, about 43 percent of all kids who died in fatal crashes weren’t restrained properly or even at all. As shocking as that is, what’s worse is thinking that it can’t happen to your family. Just because a child looks big enough to be in a booster seat or to use only a seat belt, doesn’t mean she is ready for that.
Don’t let your child be another statistic. Here are five tips to ensure she’s properly restrained every time you’re on the road:
Tip #1: Rear-facing for infants
Unless your child is at least 20 pounds, they should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. They’re much safer (and comfortable) in this position. Some models are better at protecting your child than others, so make sure you’re buying the right car seat. If you’re not sure what type of seat your child needs or if she’s ready for a booster seat or regular seat, check with the National Highway Safety Administration for their recommendations.
Tip #2: Remove the bulk
Sure, you want to keep your baby warm and snug in the winter months as you’re driving, but resist the urge to line their car seat with blankets or other padding. Remove their coats as well. You can’t get a tight enough fit with the harness, even when it feels like it’s tight, if there are bulky items in the way.
Tip #3: Make sure the harness is snug
Straps should wrap over your child’s shoulders. Adjust the harness until there’s only a finger-width of space beneath the straps. The chest clip should sit in line with the armpits. Older children especially may complain about the snug fit, but remind them that it will keep them safe like a nice, tight hug.
Tip #4: Always use the LATCH system
Most cars since 2002 are now equipped with a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Anchors are in the bottom of the backseat. They may be easy to see or hidden within the seat bight. These secure the lower part of the car seat. Tethers keep the upper part of the seat secure. They may be in various places in your vehicle depending on model and can be used along with the seat belt to secure the car seat. Be sure to check your car’s owner manual and the car seat manual for specific information about how to use the LATCH system. Don’t just assume you know how to use it.
Tip #5: The backseat is safest
Kids 12 and under should always ride in the backseat. Most cars have front air bags, and these have been shown to severely injure or even kill children in a crash because at that age, kids aren’t usually tall enough to properly absorb the impact of the airbag. And never, EVER put an infant in a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
Remember—car seats are wonderful restraints, but only when used properly. Check and double check that yours is installed correctly and that it’s the right one for your child’s needs.
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