It can be quite hectic to get yourself and your child ready for travel. In addition to what you might need for work, your child also has an assortment of items that have to be organized, and then everything is loaded and unloaded multiple times a day. When you have an infant or toddler, this travel action plan may seem a bit more complicated. Fortunately, once you learn the best methods of car seat safety, you'll be assured your young one is secure, and have one less thing to think about each day.
Car Seat Safety Rules
The universal safety standards for child car seats are easy to follow. You should have a rear-facing car seat for all infants and toddlers up to age two, or until they reach the maximum height or weight according to seat manufacturer specifications. A forward-facing car seat with a harness is required for children over the age of two, or who have outgrown the rear-facing weight and height requirements. In addition, all car carriers should be placed in the backseat, away from dashboard airbags.
Here are some additional important safety rules for car seats:
- Invest in a new model. Expenses with a new child are high, but it's important to avoid used car seats if you don't know their history. They may be structurally unsound after being in a crash; on a recall list; or have missing parts that a new parent wouldn't know to look for, especially after comparing multiple options. If your budget really can't allow for a new car seat right away, make sure the used one at least has a label with the manufacturer's model number and date of production so you can research any issues with it.
- Ensure proper fit. Unfortunately, not all car seats fit correctly into all vehicles. Make sure to review your vehicle manual to learn what models work best. If you need additional assistance, talk with a certified child passenger safety technician who can assist with recommendations.
- Clean the seat. If something is on or in your child’s seat, whether it's a blanket, toys, books, juice boxes, or even crumbs, clean the seat before you place him inside. Any items can interfere with the effectiveness of the restraints. And make sure the car seat is dry so your child can sit comfortably and not slip.
- Dress your child appropriately. In cold or wet weather, if your child has a thick coat of padding between his chest and the seat harness, it won’t be effective. In the event of an accident, the restraints will compress the fabric but not properly protect your child. Once your child is in the vehicle and out of the elements, remove jackets and sweaters before placing him in the seat. Then, you can cover him with a blanket for warmth. If it's hot outside, make sure your child has on at least a light t-shirt so the straps don't push into bare skin.
- Give the belt a tug. Make sure the belt is properly locked before you start the car. The harness straps should be snug, and the height of the chest clip even with your child's underarms. Depending on your child’s age, he may feel he’s independent enough to buckle the belt. If this happens, give it a tug to make sure it's secure.
- Check for recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) updates car seat recalls on a regular basis. Sometimes, a simple repair to the seat is all that's needed, but seats can also be removed from the market. Check on yours at the NHTSA website.
How long should your child ride in a car seat? Age, height, and weight are the primary determining factors. Talk with your pediatrician, the aforementioned passenger safety technician, or the car seat manufacturer to learn more.
For additional information on car seat safety, child accident liability, and infant car accidents, please browse our selection of noteworthy articles. To discuss a personal injury case directly, contact our office to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.