Parents have so much to keep track of, choosing a car seat and using it properly should not be difficult and time consuming. However, the majority of car seats are improperly installed, and many parents are using child safety seats that are defective, out of date, or the wrong size for their children. By learning the basics about car seat safety, you can simplify the process while keeping your child safe and secure.
Choosing a Car Seat
Choose a seat that is right for your child’s age, weight and height by checking the label on the seat. If you already have an older car seat that you plan to use, check the expiration date. If you have received or are purchasing a used child safety seat, you need to know the history of the seat. You should never use a car seat that has been involved in a crash. Finally, don’t forget to check the National Highway Safety Administration’s website and make sure the car seat has not been recalled.
Placing and Facing the Car Seat
Ideally, your child will ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13. Babies and young children in car seats should certainly be in the back, and in some states it’s the law.
Babies should start out in rear-facing seats, and stay in them as long as possible, usually until they are about two years old. A rear-facing seat should never be placed in front of an airbag, so if you must place your baby in the front seat, such as in a pick-up truck in states that allow it, make sure the airbag is turned off.
Snug and Secure
When installing the seat, read the instructions that came with the car seat as well as your vehicle’s manual to make sure you are installing it properly. Don’t hesitate to have the installation checked by a certified child passenger safety technician. This is often a free service.
Once the seat is installed, shake it to make sure it is in tight enough. It should not move more than an inch.
Then, when you have your child strapped in, check your manual to make sure the harness and all of the straps are arranged properly. Pinch the strap at the shoulder to make sure it is snug. If there is any excess it is too loose.
Your child should never wear a heavy coat while in the car seat. The harness will not be snug enough. If it is cold, strap your child in, then place a blanket over the harness.
Please download our Car Seat Checklist for a quick reference.