|Photo taken from the U.S. Department of Transportation|
As we all know, car seats are one of the most important items you purchase for your child. But some may not know how important. Here are a few tips to remember when it comes to car seat safety:
Make sure to read the manual that your car seat comes with.
NEVER buy a used car seat without knowing specific details first. If you are planning on buying a used car seat, make sure that it's never been in a car wreck and that the straps have never been washed.
Know when the expiration date is. Yes, car seats have an expiration date. Most manufacturers recommend buying a new car seat after 6-10 years.
Your newborn must be in the rear-facing position. When installing your seat make sure that your baby's seat is semi-reclined no more than 45 degrees, so baby's head stays in contact with the seat. If you are having trouble installing your baby's car seat, take it to your local fire or police department and they will properly install if for you.
Make sure that the buckled harness straps that keep your baby properly positioned fit snuggly. It is supposed to be tight to where you cannot pinch it. The shoulder straps should be at or below your rear-facing baby's shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level. You should use either the car's seat belt or latch system. Do NOT use both at the same time. Use a top tether if both car and seat are equipped. Tethers limit the forward motion of child's head in a crash. If correctly done, your car seat should not move more than one inch side to side or front to back.
For your child's best possible protection, keep your baby rear facing for as long as possible! Check your child's seat for the height or weight limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends parent's to keep their babies rear-facing up until the child's second birthday. For some states, the law for front facing is 12 months and 20 pounds. It is proven that rear-facing until the age of two is 500% safer. If your child is over the age of two, and/or over the height/weight requirement of a rear facing car seat, they should remain in a five point harness for as long as possible. If you feel that your child is ready to be moved to a booster seat, make sure to ask yourself these questions to see if they fit that category:
- Does your child exceed the car seat's height or weight limits?
- Are your child's shoulders above the car seat's top harness slots?
- Are the top of your child's ears above the top of the car seat?
- Is your child at least 4 years old AND 40 pounds?
If so, you may safely transition them to a high back booster seat. Most laws require your child to remain in a booster seat until age 7 and under and who weigh less than 80 pounds.
Not all states have the same laws, so if you want to find out about yours, visit your local DMV in person or online, or visit one of these sites: