Car crashes are one of the biggest causes of unintentional deaths to children in the United States.
Children’s car seats have saved countless lives over the years. However, in order for your child to be as safe as possible, there are a few very important things every parent should know and understand. We’ve put together 7 of the most important tips in this article, please read these tips very carefully and most importantly, make any corrections before you next put your child in the car.
WARNING: If you are unsure about any of the safety advice offered in this article, you should seek professional help to ensure that your child seat is correctly adjusted and to also make sure that it is the appropriate model and size for your child.
1. Install the car-seat correctly.
Believe it or not, many people do not fully understand how to fit a child’s seat into their car correctly. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest things to rectify and can be done in as little as 15 minutes.
2. Every car seat has an expiry date – regardless of the manufacturer.
Yes, this mean – Every. Single. One. And yes, that means you can’t safely use the same car seat you’ve used for the last 10 years for all of your children. The plastic in a child’s car seat can degrade over time. This can cause the seatbelts to rip and cause horrific injury in the case of a collision. Every car seat comes with a manual, check that manual to see how often you should change the seat.
Sometimes, the expiration date is stamped on the back of the seat or there will be a sticker showing the manufacture date and model number somewhere on the seat itself.
Most commonly, a car seat will expire SIX years after its date of manufacture.
3. Never use a seatbelt in conjunction with the seat harness.
Many parents think that using a seatbelt in conjunction with a safety seat harness will give the child ‘Double protection’ in the case of a crash. In fact, the truth is that this actually puts too much stress on the seat in a collision, which can cause the harness to rip out of the seat shell.
4. Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible
Yes, unfortunately a lot of parents turn their children to face forward in the vehicle before it is truly safe to do so. In the case of a collision, huge forces are exerted onto the child’s body. This can cause permanent injury to the child or could, in a worst case scenario, lead to the death of the child.
If a child is rear-facing, the force of any collision will be spread across a greater area of the body. This means that less pressure will be exerted on the child’s head, neck, shoulders and inner organs, potentially saving the child’s life.
In fact, keeping your child rear facing can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by MORE than 90%.
5. Make sure the harness shoulder straps are properly adjusted.
When your child is rear-facing, the harness straps should be AT or BELOW their shoulder level. This will prevent the child from ‘ramping-up’ in the seat in a collision.
When your child is forward-facing, the harness shoulder straps should be AT or ABOVE their shoulder level (but also not too high).
When forward facing, if the harness is adjusted to below your child’s shoulder level, then this could cause the spine to compress in the case of an accident and could cause permanent injuries such as paralysis, or could even lead to the death of your child.
6. Make sure the harness chest strap is properly adjusted.
The top of the chest clip should be level with your child’s armpits. If the chest strap is adjusted to low on the body, i.e. at the belly button level, this could cause severe abdominal injuries in the event of a collision.
REMEMBER: The chest clip is not designed to keep your child in the seat in the event of an accident, it is designed to keep the harness in the correct position. You should ALWAYS fasten the chest clip and crotch buckles. Always!
7. The seat harness should always be “as snug as a hug”
In order for the car seat to be as safe as possible, the harness straps should always be as snug to the child’s body as possible.
If you can pinch any slack anywhere on the harness straps, then the straps are too loose and will need to be adjusted so that you can no longer pinch the slack.
Hopefully this will help you to understand some of the most common car seat safety tips and will allow you to make any necessary changes to your own safety setup. Again, please remember that if you are struggling with anything in this article, you should seek professional help with fitting your child’s car seat.