The Do’s and Don’ts of Child Safety Seats

86499187The New Year is well underway and by now, many of us have forgotten about our New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you vowed to better yourself this year and ensure your own well-being. But what about your loved ones? Here’s a resolution you may not have considered – ensuring that your child’s car seat is safe and secure, and that you’re using it correctly.

It’s never too late to start a new resolution, much less when it involves the safety of your children. I’ve put together a few car seat do’s and don’ts to help you get started:

  • DO take your car to a local car seat inspection site so a professional can check the installation. Many local law enforcement agencies and fire departments will hold child seat installation events that are free to the public. You can find an inspection site near you by visiting Seatcheck.org.
  • DO put an infant in a rear-facing car seat at a 45° angle. If it’s too flat, your baby could slip down; if it’s too upright, their head could fall forward and squeeze their airway. Helpful hint: use a rolled-up towel under the foot of the seat if necessary.
  • DO choose a car seat with a five-point harness as these have been engineered to increase a child’s safety in the event of an accident.
  • DO put a tightly rolled-up blanket alongside your baby’s body if they are small, but be sure to strap them in first so the straps stay taut. This prevents their head from hitting the side of the car seat in the event of an accident. Even though the seat is padded, it can still cause an infant harm.
  • DO put your child in a booster seat when they’ve outgrown their car seat, and insist they use it until they’re eight years old or 57 inches tall. A recent study found that high-back boosters are safer than backless ones in side-impact crashes.

While you’re taking the initiative to protect your child, be sure to avoid these common mistakes:

  • DON’T put an infant in a forward-facing car seat. A baby should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they’re at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds. If your baby is less than one year but weighs more than 20 pounds, put them in a convertible rear-facing car seat.
  • DON’T forget to tighten the safety belt attachments when installing your seat. If you can wiggle it more than an inch from side to side, the seat is too loose.
  • DON’T put your car seat or booster in the front seat. Children should be at least 13 years old before they ride up front.
  • DON’T forget to check that the tethers are attached correctly if your car uses the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. You need to use only the lower attachments for a rear-facing seat; a forward-facing seat should use both the top and bottom tether. Be sure to tighten all straps.
  • DON’T strap your child or infant in their seat wearing winter coats. Recent crash test results have shown some infants and children can slip out of their safety seats due to the bulkiness of winter coats. If you’re concerned about your children being warm, experts say you can turn the coat around and put it on backwards over the harness, with their arms through the sleeves. Or you can lay an actual blanket over the child.

We all want our children to be safe, comfortable and warm during car trips. These car seat safety tips are a great place to start! Don’t delay – make it today’s resolution to ensure your child is as safe as possible in their car seat.

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