- Price isn’t Everything, Especially when it comes to Safety. When it comes to purchasing car seats, the more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean “more safe”. There are car seats for every budget. A lot could be additional features, easy to use, or brand popularity. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) ALL CAR SEATS rated meet Federal Safety and Crash Performance Standards. The NHTSA gives ratings a variety of seats. So what’s the determining factor on which seat to get? Get the one that best fits your budget, vehicle, can be properly installed and used.
- Your Child is Too Big for the Seat. You bring your new bundle of joy home in the infant sea, they grow quickly, when do you move up to the next size. Sometimes it might be easy to judge if they outgrow the seat. When they pass the height or weight limits you will need to change seats to accommodate the changes. You can check the manufacturer’s site for specifics on whether your car seat is still a good fit.
- Moving to forward facing or booster seat too soon. The AAP policy says its best to keep kids rear facing until they turn 2 or meet the maximum height and weight for the seat. Studies say that children under 2 are less likely to be severly injured (or worse) if they are riding rear-facing.
Newer car seats are equipped with higher height and weight limits to help encourage rear-facing. Note, just because the child meets the minimum weight requirement for booster seat DOES NOT MEAN they are ready to move up. It comes down to if they can sit correctly in the seat and maintain proper belt positions at ALL TIMES. (We know it’s tough for us some days).
- More is not Merrier in this case. Using both LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) and the safety belt OR using the wrong LATCH anchors OR using LATCH past weight limit is no Bueno. It depends on your car and seat. One or the other may be the best option, but DON’T use both. Double check your car seat manual to make sure you’re using the correct anchors.
PS: the lower anchors have weight limits also, so you have to switch to vehicle seat belt installation if/when the weight of child plus car seat exceeds 65lbs.
- Used Seat = Better Deal. There are a ton of reasons on why to NOT buy a used car seat. Expiration dates, could have been in a car accident before, and require info you should know that you could miss out on purchasing from a previous user. Research and see which local organizations offer inexpensive options. You’re carrying precious cargo remember, don’t skip the small stuff!
- Taking Kids out of Car Seats too soon. So when should they ride only with the seat belt? Great question! When the child can sit ALL the WAY BACK with knees bent over the edge. The belt needs to properly cross the shoulder and the thighs- NOT NECK OR STOMACH. Again, they need to be able to maintain in this position throughout the ride, even if asleep. Check your state requirements, most require use of a booster through age 8 or 9.
- Incorrect use of Chest Clip. Don’t brush this piece off. It’s actually a crucial part of the features to the seat. The clip holds the straps so that if an accident happens, the straps will remain secure on the child’s shoulders, allowing full benefit from full protection of the seat. A clip in the wrong spot could result in ejection or even internal injuries. Place clip at armpit level.
- Straps need to be Snug. Rule to remember: If you can pinch and excess strap between your fingers, or if the straps are twisted or gaping, they are too loose. The child’s clothes should never be buckled in while wearing it. You may think it adds “padding” but in an accident, it will compress and leave space that could cause injury. Buckle up first, and then place over child.
- Wrong Harness Slot. The manual for the car seat will be specific to your exact seat, but usually placement depends on the direction the seat is facing. Rear-facing: straps should thread into harness slot at or below the shoulders. Forward-facing: straps should thread into harness slot at or above the shoulders.
10. It’s ONLY a Car Seat. It’s only and just that. A Car Seat. Not a bed, high chair, attachment for shopping carts. Believe it or not, studies say leading cause of head injuries to young children is….. falling from shopping carts. The recline settings when properly installed in a vehicle are carefully chosen by the manufacturer.
So to wrap this all up, take the time to properly install your car seat before use. Have it inspected by a certified technician for assurance, usually for no cost. Again, your child is precious cargo, take precautionary measures NOW before you could regret it later. Read the full article here for more information about local inspections and state regulations.