I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a little bit neurotic when it comes to car seat safety. A few years ago, my kids and I were in a rollover car accident, and when the paramedics came to the scene, they told me that if my kids hadn’t been properly secured in their car seats, their bodies very well may have been strewn along the road, just like my purse, my cellphone, the kids’ sippy cups and a bunch of CDs and other things that had been safely in my car moments before!
Did you know that 8 out of 10 children are riding in cars improperly restrained? I know that carseats can be difficult to install, and that sometimes kids put up a fight, but it’s worth the hassle. Not using your child’s carseat properly can mean the difference between life and death. If you haven’t already done this, or haven’t done it lately, have your children’s safety seats inspected by a certified carseat safety technician. You can usually find one by asking at your local police or fire station, or by visiting the SafeKids website and searching for one in your area. In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Read the instruction manual that came with your carseat. Yes, installing your seat may seem like common sense, but all seats are a little bit different, and you may need to route the seatbelt a different way than you might expect. Also, scan through your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see if there are any places in the car that a carseat might not be able to be installed.
- Install your carseat tightly enough so that you can’t move it more than an inch in any direction. This might entail getting someone to help you apply enough pressure to tighten the LATCH belt or the seatbelt.
- Use the tether on your child’s seat if it comes with one. Even if it’s not mandatory when using a seatbelt to install the seat, it can reduce head movement in the event of a crash.
- Keep your baby rear-facing until she reaches the weight limit of the seat, or until she’s two years old. This recommendation is more stringent than the old recommendation, which was to wait until she reached 20 pounds and one year of age. Keeping her rear-facing longer is better!
- Keep your child in a five-point harness as long as she fits. For most kids, this will be until they are at least 4 years old. You can purchase a seat that harnesses up to 65 pounds, and that will hold a larger. Both of my kids, who are on the small side, were able to fit in their harnesses until they were about 7 years old.
- Harnesses should be snug enough that you can only fit one finger comfortably between the harness and your child’s collarbone. Avoid bulky coats which make it hard to get a snug fit. Also, the chest clip should be at armpit level.
- Use a booster seat until your child is able to sit on the seat of the car properly without slouching. For most kids, this will be when they are 9 or 10 years old. She should be able to rest her feet on the floor without sliding her bottom forward in the seat, and the belt should rest comfortably across her hips and chest, without riding up on her abdomen or scratching at her neck.
The most important rule is to use your child’s car seat every time you leave the house, even if you’re not going far. When we had our rollover accident, it was a sunny day and we were less than a mile from home, on our way to the grocery store. An accident can happen anywhere, so it’s never okay to not have your kids buckled up properly.
Have you had your child’s carseat inspected by a technician? If not, make the call today!