Hi Guys! I know lots of you have kids who are car-seat ages, so I asked a good friend that specializes in car seat safety to share some of her wisdom with us. She is amazing, and we are so grateful she took the time to share. Now over to Michelle…
A little disclaimer: This is opinion, check with your local agencies and laws to determine the best and safest practices for car seats in your state, according to the model you use, and the vehicle you drive. Thanks!
The statistic that 4 out of 5 car seats are used incorrectly, is startling to me. I want to know what I can do to keep my kids safe. There are a lot of things in the world that I cannot control, but one of them is how to put my kids in the car for safe travel. Here are 5 things I see used incorrectly regularly when parents come to get their children’s car seats checked.
- Retainer clip position. On many new car seats they have a diagram of where the buckle should be placed on your child’s chest. It should be armpit level, straight across the chest. This is to prevent ejection from the car seat in the event of a collision. It needs to not be too low, by their belly button so they will fly out of the top, or too high to choke them.
- Harness strap tightness. This is a topic of debate among many parents. The straps need to pass the pinch test. Take a section of the strap by your child’s shoulder and see if you can pinch any of the strap. Too loose and you are able to pinch some, just right and you aren’t able to pinch any excess. Make sure you don’t go to the extreme and have the straps so tight they are digging into your child’s shoulders. Another very important thing to watch for is to not put large, bulky coats on your children when you buckle them into their seats. You can’t get a tight enough fit over the coat.
- Expiration dates. Yes, like food, car seats have an expiration date. It is either stamped into the plastic, or on a sticker on your car seat. It is generally by the date it was manufactured. And it is not a gimmick for car seat companies to get more money. It is a safety issue. Car seats are made of plastic. Over the years the heating and cooling of the car and the outside temperature cause shrinking and expansion of the plastic. To keep the integrity of the car seat, this expanding and contracting can only happen so many times before the seat will not hold up in a crash. Car seats go through rigorous testing and standards to make sure they can keep your precious cargo safe. Many times it is the harness straps that will break through the plastic when you crash if you use an expired seat. If you can see the visible cracking in the plastic, then you should get rid of your seat immediately. Other times, you can’t see the cracks. Either way, when the seat reaches its expiration, it needs to be disposed of. There are centers that will take the seats and recycle them, or you can cut the straps and toss them in the garbage.
- Handles on infant carriers, up or down? The answer to this one is that it really depends on your car seat. Sometimes it is printed on the side of your seat in pictures, but it is always in your owner’s manual. Many times the owner’s manual is stored on the side or underneath your seat. If you can’t find your manual, you can call the manufacturer and they will send you a new one, or answer your question over the phone. Some manufacturers make the manual available online.
- Position of car seats in the car. I get asked, “Where is the safest place to install a car seat?” This is kind of a trick question because as long as you install it correctly and tight enough, it doesn’t really matter what seat you put it in. Unless it is in the front seat. NEVER install a rear facing child seat in the front passenger spot. The air bag will make your child’s seat more of a rocket and less of a safety protective ride for your child. Infant carriers are meant to have a ride down effect. Meaning, in a crash they are supposed to tip up and absorb the crash force, basically giving your baby a nice little ride up and then down. The seat will take the brunt of the force. But if you put a seat in front of an air bag it blows your child into the seat back and can cause serious injury.
I realize that all of this can seem like a lot, but there is help out there! There are some great resources literally at your finger tips. The first thing is to refer to your owners manual, that can answer a lot of your questions. You can contact your local health department for more information and for hands on help with car seat and booster installations. Or visit www.safekids.org or www.nhtsa.gov
Wow, thanks Michelle! Let’s keep our littles safe, and make sure our car seats are properly positioned, straps are used correctly, and that our car seats aren’t out of date! And, make sure your car seat and other tools of the mommy-hood trade haven’t been recalled, find out how here.