Shopping for car seats can be extremely overwhelming! There are so many products on the market, and it can be hard to know what the right choices are- not to mention how expensive everything is! Car seats are a prime example where high price does not always equate with the best choice. Once you choose a car seat, it’s equally important to use them the right way to make car rides as safe as possible. Here are some Do's and Don'ts to consider when choosing a car seat and using it safely.
DO choose the safest type of car seat for your child’s age
- Infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat.
- Children over the age of 2 that have outgrown the maximum weight and height limits on their rear-facing seat can be made front-facing. They should remain in a convertible seat with a harness for as long as possible, to the highest weight and height allowed by the manufacturer (most go up to 65lb or more).
- Use a belt-positioning booster seat for school-aged children who meet the above limits until they are tall enough that a normal seat belt fits well. This is typically when they are 4-foot-9-inches tall and 8-12 years old.
- All children under 13 years old should sit in the back seat at all times.
DO make sure car seats are installed properly
- Using the LATCH system or seat belt installation are equally safe, so choose whichever allows you to secure the car seat the best. You should not use both simultaneously unless the manufacturer specifically says it’s ok to do so!
- Although the middle of the backseat is generally regarded as safest, it’s ok to use the window seats if the middle seat does not have safety hookups or is uneven.
- Pull the belt tight! Apply weight into the seat with your hand or knee while tightening the seat belt or LATCH strap. Once installed, it should not move more than an inch from side to side.
- To make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your little one’s head does not flop forward, use the built-in recline indicator present on all rear-facing seats.
- Consider having your installation checked by a professional! Lists of certified child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) and fitting stations are available at the following websites: NHTSA Parents & Caregivers and National Child Passenger Safety Certification.
DON’T use old, refurbished, or used car seats or seats that have been involved in a crash
- Check the label for the manufacturing and expiration dates. Never use an expired seat!
- Use the label with the model number to check for recalls. If your car seat has been recalled or the label is not present, it may not safe for use.
- Any visible cracks or missing parts decrease the safety.
- Replace car seats after every vehicle crash, which is why used car seats with no safety history are recommended against. Your motor vehicle insurance should cover the cost to replace the car seat after a crash.
DO make sure the straps are positioned properly
- Place harnesses (rear-facing seat) in slots that are at or below your child's shoulders
- Harness should be snug enough that you cannot pinch any slack between your fingers when testing the harness straps over the child's shoulders.
- Place the retainer clip at the center of the chest at the level of your child's armpits
DON’T add anything to the car seat that can alter its ability to protect your child
- Never put any kind of padding under or behind your child or use seat inserts unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer for use with that specific seat.
- Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child safely, which can increase the chance of injury in an accident! Dress your child in thin layers and lay a blanket or coat on top of the buckled harness straps to keep warm.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s safety (or anything else!) please reach out to us at any time.