Every state has their own laws regarding car seats. But in general, all states agree that infants and small children should be secured in a car seat whenever they are in a vehicle. The reasoning is that it protects the children from getting into dangerous positions when the vehicle is in motion and reduces the level of injury a child would suffer in the event of an accident. Car seats can be really confusing, though.
There is a running joke on the Internet that some parents don't figure out how to work their car seats until their children have already gone to college. Why do car seats have to be so complicated, right? We can read the directions all we want, even look at the photos in the manual, and still have trouble assembling the car seat and putting our kid in them the right way.
New parents especially have a bunch of questions about choosing the right car seat and using them for their vehicle trips with the kids. National Safety Week has designated September 23 through September 29, 2018, as Child Passenger Safety Week. With that in mind, we found the answers to 17 of the most common car seat questions, as well as three questions that parents should already know the answer to. Car seats don't have to leave parents feeling exasperated.
20 The Basics
What are the laws in the different states regarding car seats? Parents can check out AAA's Digest of Motor Laws to get a comprehensive list. Each set has their own rules for car seats that is a good place to start for many parents. For example, Alabama requires that children up to age 6 years old must be in a booster seat or child safety seat. Alaska requires that children up to age 16 be secured with either a seat belt or a safety seat! So, the basics of what moms should know about car seats start with local laws.
19 Grab The Car Manual Out Of The Trash
Car manuals often have a section regarding car seats. Before parents go shopping for the right car seat, they should review the manual to see what specification a car seat for their vehicle would require. The next step is to measure the back seat area and check out the seat belts. Take this information when going to shop for a car seat because it will make it easier to find the ideal car seat for the type of car that one owns and ensures a much better fit. Getting the wrong size could make it very uncomfortable and unsafe for the child.
18 Getting Logistical
Parents who have more than one child, or more members of their family, have to also consider the logistics of their vehicle. Measure the back seat before buying a car seat and consider the number of kids who would be sitting back there, along with the number of people who might need to be in car seats. It requires some logistical planning, that's for sure! Moms might even have to practice before going on that first car trip with all of her passengers so that errand runs aren't as hectic. (But let's face it, running errands with kids will *always* be a trial by fire experience.)
17 Path Of Safety
Cars seats secured with the seat belt should follow the safety seat's belt path, according to Parents magazine. Moms and dads should check that there is "no more than one inch of side-to-side motion at the belt path" to protect the car seat from sliding all over the place while the vehicle is in motion. An unsecured car seat defeats the purpose of using a car seat in the first place; it wouldn't provide the safety it's supposed to give the children. It could even become a hazard if it's not installed and secured in the proper manner.
16 Facing Directions
There are three different types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster. (Regular seat belt is the fourth way that parents can keep kids safe in their vehicles.) So how do we choose the right car seat? Rear-facing is safest for kids under age two. Kids who are older may be able to use the forward-facing car seat. And older kids can get away with just a booster seat. Everyone else should still be secured with a seat belt. Follow the basic guidelines for the age and size of the child, and there is nothing wrong with asking questions.
15 Know Your Baby's Measurements
Car seats come in different sizes. In addition to checking the size for fitting the vehicle, parents should choose a car seat designed for their kid's age and size. The boxes for the car seats should provide insight on the fit, so this can be done while in the shopping phase. Test it out when the car seat is home. If it's too big or too small, return it to the store before ever using it in the vehicle. The fact is that we might have to buy several car seats over time to accommodate for a growing child. An improperly fitted car seat could be a hazard, otherwise.
14 Get Adjusted
The car seat should have accessible harness adjustments. If it can't be adjusted or isn't easy to reach, then it could be a danger in the event of a car crash. Examine the display models at the store and check for adjustable harnesses. There are different types, and moms could have a preference for a particular type. One might be difficult for her while another one works much better. Understand the harness adjustments and other parts on the car seat and how they work. It's also a good idea to check for damage on the car seat every time it's used.
13 There's Expiration Dates
One thing that many parents don't know is that car seats can expire! Say, what?! Yes, car seats have an expiration date. Rules regarding car seats change as new knowledge is presented, so it is imperative to choose the most up-to-date car seats to ensure that our children are the safest that they can be. Car seats also get old and damaged over time, especially if they have been in a few accidents. Expiration dates range from six to 10 years and can often be found somewhere on the car seat. Heed those expiration dates!
12 Second-Hand Rule
It's not recommended to use a second-hand car seat, according to safety experts. Unless we know exactly what that car seat has been through, we should never use a second-hand seat from a stranger. This is especially true for ones that have past their expiration dates or been in car accidents. Why not? It might seem like it's saving parents money to use an old car seat, but it actually puts the child's life in danger, especially if there is a car accident. Keep those babies safe by buying new car seats and doing all of the research on current car seat models.
11 The Five Star Rating
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a special ratings system for car seats based on the Ease of Use of the car seat. Parents should check out the make and model of the car seat that they are considering against the NHTSA rating system. The rating system helps parents know which car seats are easiest to use, not necessarily a safety rating. Car seats, as we know, can be very complicated, so the Ease of Use rating can help parents make better decisions on which car seat will work for them and their kids.
10 An Extra Set Of Hands
If moms still aren't sure or just want to ensure that the car seat is installed correctly, Certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technicians are a thing. It's possible to find one by searching on the tool provided by the National Safety Council. (Yes, we didn't know that this was possible, but we like it!) Some stores even have CPS Technicians on hand to help parents find the right car seat and install it once they have purchased one. That can really take the stress out of putting in a car seat, so I totally recommend this service!
9 So Fresh And So Clean
Car seats should be cleaned on a regular basis, but it is very important to follow the cleaning instructions to the letter. Do not use bleach or other harsh cleaning agents because it will not only ruin the fabric but also absorb into it and create harmful fumes that the children will breathe in. Car seats have cleaning instructions provided in the manual. Take care of stains and germs by following the cleaning directions, but it is a good idea to also take that time to inspect the car seat for wear and tear.
8 Very Secure
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, parents can check if the car seat is installed tightly enough. The recommend Inch Test is checking that the car seat only moves an inch in either direction once it is secured with a seat belt or LATCH. The car seat's five-point harness should also be properly secured so that the child is safely secured within the car seat. That car seat should stay upright and in place whenever we drive around corners or if we need to stop suddenly and without warning. A car seat that has been installed correctly won't fly all over the place when the vehicle is in motion.
7 World Traveler
If children are flying on a plane, they may be required to be in a safety seat. Check for car seats that can also be used on aircraft. Some car seats are also certified for airplanes, so moms who do a lot of traveling with the little ones should look into car seats and safety harnesses that have the dual purpose of being for vehicles and airplanes. This way, children can be properly secured and as safe as possible on an airplane, no matter how many times the plane jolts on our trips to and from grandma's house.
6 Check Out Recalls
Register the car seat either by mail or online. This is how parents can find out about recalls as soon as they are announced. Recalls are bund to happen because new knowledge comes out about safety, or parents discover a defect in a model that they purchased. Car seats are supposed to be tested but the lab probably can't go through every scenario imaginable. It's ideal that they do, but it doesn't always happen. Lab tests also can't fully recreate the actual experience of using the car seat every day. Pay attention to recalls and follow the instructions to either repair or replace the car seat.
5 The Prepared Mom
Yes, it's perfectly fine to get the car seat before the baby is even born! Safe Kids Worldwide even recommends doing so. Nothing is worse than delivering the baby and not having an available car seat to be allowed to take the newborn home in. Having a car seat already installed in the car will make it much easier when the baby finally arrives! Moms can certainly prepare for that, and it's actually a really great idea to do so. We have nine months to search for the right car seat. So at least that part of parenting will be ready when we need it.
4 The Car Seat Dilemma
What should moms who have several kids in car seats do to ensure that their kids are safe? Make sure that the seat belt buckles don't overlap. Kids should also not be on top of each other. All kids who are required to be secured in a car seat or booster seat should be able to fit safely into the vehicle.
What happens if they don't?
Experts recommend getting a new vehicle in that case. It sound inconvenient, but the fact is that it would be illegal to not safety harness the children in the proper way or to try squishing them into the vehicle. It is also dangerous.
3 Little Back-Seat Drivers
Kids under 12 are supposed to be in the back seat. Why? Air bags are designed for adults, not children. It's also safer for kids to be in the back seat in the event of a car crash. Allowing kids to sit in the passenger seat would be a bad idea, especially if there is a crash that deploys the airbags. Airbags hurt even for those of us who are adults, so imagine what damage they can do to little children. Follow the law and keep those kids safe by securing them in the back seat. Being safely away from the impact of an airbag is much better for them.
2 No Exceptions
Even if kids don't want to sit in a car seat, there are no exceptions. Small children should also never be strapped into a car seat in the passenger seat. Not only is it illegal to not secure children in the proper safety harnesses, it could prove to be dangerous if there is an accident. Tell kids that you are not going anywhere until everyone is safely in their seats, in the back seat and harnessed. Be firm about it because this is very much for their own good. Sitting next to mom or dad in the front seat sounds fun and all, but it is not recommended. It is also a huge safety violation to do so.
1 Passing The Torch
When parents let others drive their kids somewhere, they should make sure that there is a car seat that is fitted properly and that the other driver follows all child safety laws and precautions. The child safety laws for vehicles don't just apply to the parents of children; they apply to *anyone* who transports children *anywhere* in every state. That means school bus drivers, babysitters, grandparents — everyone. Child safety is the responsibility of everybody, so make sure that anyone who is transporting the kids knows the law and abides by it.
References: twitter.com, nsc.org, drivinglaws.aaa.com, parents.com, safeseats4kids.aaa.com, nhtsa.gov, washingtonpost.com, blog.allstate.com, safekids.org, simplemost.com, stanfordchildrens.org, healthychildren.org,