According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are a leading cause of death in children ages 1-13. Car seats can help keep children safe, and here are some safety tips to make sure they are installed and used properly:
- Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
Your children are safest when they are rear-facing. Keep their seats rear-facing until they are two years old or reach the maximum height and weight limit allowed according to the car seat manufacturer. Some parents think that their child is at greater risk for leg injuries when they are rear-facing. However, research has shown that it is actually the opposite. Children are at greater risk for leg injuries when they are forward-facing, especially if they have been turned around too early.
- Ensure that the harness is buckled correctly.
When your child is buckled, make sure that the harness is tightened to fit snugly. There should be no slack but should not be too tight against the child’s body. The harness straps will need to be adjusted as the child grows.
- Put the chest clip in the correct position.
The chest clip is the piece of the car seat that keeps the harness straps in the correct position. It is important to note that this clip should be at armpit level. If it is positioned too high, it can cause neck injuries. If it is positioned too low, it can cause stomach injuries.
- Recline the seat correctly.
A common mistake in car seat installation is reclining the seat incorrectly. A car seat should be reclined 30-45 degrees. Read your car seat manual to find out the angle recommended for your specific seat. As the baby grows, they gain more head control and can sit more upright.
- Remove bulky coats or jackets before buckling.
It is advised that you remove your child’s jacket when they are in their car seat. Large jackets can create slack and will decrease the amount of safety that your child receives while in the car seat. It is safest to put a blanket or jacket over them after they are buckled in.
- Make sure the car seat is properly installed.
When the car seat is installed in a vehicle, there should be no wiggle room where the Latch system or safety belt is attached. The seat should not move more than one inch in either direction if installed correctly. It is advised to use either the Latch system or the seat belt, not both. Once you have the seat installed, it is best practice to get the installation checked by an expert.
- Register your car seat.
Once you pick out the best car seat for your child, it is vital that you register your car seat. This ensures that you are notified in the event of a recall on your product.