As most parents probably already know, being a parent doesn’t come with a manual. However, when it comes to a child’s safety, there are actually certain things that do come with a manual. One of those things is a car seat. Driving can be a pretty dangerous activity. And when there is such precious cargo to worry about, doing everything you can to keep them safe is going to be a top priority.
The only problem is that when it comes to car seats, there’s a lot that most people don’t even know about. From placing it into the right spot, reclining it at the right angle, how to tether it to the seat, or even to deciding whether it should be forward facing or rear facing, there is a lot more to car seat safety than meets the eye.
While car seats have been designed to help keep kids safe, it seems that they were also designed to confuse everyone who tries to set one up. Nevertheless, becoming more knowledgeable about car seats can help save lives.
So without much further ado, here are 20 things to know about using car seats safely.
20 Doing Your Homework Before Using A Used Car Seat
It’s always important to do your homework. But it’s especially important to do your homework when it comes to buying a using a used car seat. Your first choice should probably be to buy a new car seat, but sometimes circumstances are out of our control.
So, if you are in the market for a used car seat, you should always make sure that the seat has never been recalled, there are no issues with it, shows the manufacturer date and the model number and that it isn’t older than 5 years old.
Basically, if you can’t get any important information on it, don’t buy it.
19 Placing Your Car Seat In The Right Spot
As important as it is to buy the right kind of car seat for your little one, it is actually just as important to place the car seat in the right spot. And the safest spot in the car to put the car seat is in the back. More specifically, in the back middle seat. You want to keep the car seat away from the airbags in case they were to ever go off and away from the doors. And if you don’t have any back seats in your car, i.e. a pickup truck, make sure to disable the airbags so that they do not harm the child.
18 Correctly Installing The Car Seat or Buckling Up Your Child
While correctly installing a car seat or bucking up your child might seem like pretty straightforward things, sometimes, they can be anything but. In fact, I would definitely recommend that you read the instructions on how to properly install it. Now isn’t the time to think that you know better than the manual. Not only do you want to make sure that the seat is facing in the right direction, but you also want to make sure that seat doesn’t move around a lot. And when it comes to bucking up your child, there shouldn’t be any slack or give to it.
17 Reclining Your Child At The Correct Angle
I know what you’re thinking, you didn’t even know that reclining your child at a correct angle in a car seat was a thing. Well, I’m here to tell you that is indeed a very real thing. It’s very important to recline the child’s car seat to the correct angle so that their head doesn’t rock forward and keeping the seat partially reclined will help keep their airway open. Moreover, it’s also important to know that most car seats include indictors to make sure that you are using the correct angle. Furthermore, you will also need to change and readjust the angles as your little one grows.
16 Not Moving To A Forward-Facing Car Seat Too Soon
When it comes to kids, they always like to think that they’re ready for the big kid things. However, when it comes to car seats, you never want to rush into anything. I’m talking, of course, about the forward-facing car seat. While it may go against your instincts to not wanting to be able see your child in your mirror or upon turning your head around, you need to fight it.
It is best to have your child’s car seat rear facing for as long as you can, or at least until your child meets the height or mass limits. That’s when you can finally make the switch.
15 Removing Your Child’s Heavy Outerwear
I’m sure that when it comes to car seats, what type of outerwear your child is wearing is the last thing you would think that you have to worry about. Well… I’m here to tell you that unfortunately, you would be wrong.
Bulky or thick jackets, or even blankets for that matter, can be so big that they can actually prevent the car seat straps from tightly securing your little one.
What you are going to want to do is simply strap your child in and then put their jacket or blanket on top of them. Now, you have warmth and safety.
14 Tethering Every Forward Facing Car Seat
When your little one has reached the appropriate height and mass limit, the time has come to move onto the forward-facing car seat. However, just because you’re now using a forward-facing car seat, doesn’t mean you’ve reached the point where you don’t have to worry about safety or precautions. In order to better protect your child, you are going to want to secure the new forward-facing car seat to an anchor in the back of the car with the use of a tether, or strap. This will help to decrease the child’s head movement in the case of an accident.
13 Keeping The Straps Snug
Keeping the straps snug might seem like an obvious thing to do and well… that’s because it is! But not only is it something that might seem obvious, it is something that is still very important to remember to do. Keeping the straps of the car seat snug depend on shoulder strap position. When it comes to shoulder strap position, it largely depends on whether you are using a rear facing seat or a front facing seat. If it’s a rear facing seat, you want to keep the shoulder straps at or below the shoulders. And if it’s a front facing seat, you want to keep the shoulder straps at or above the shoulders.
12 Having A Trained Tech Check The Installation
Installing a car seat isn’t exactly a walk in the park. If it was, then everyone would do it and there would be no need for any trained technicians. Thankfully though, these trained techs exist to make our lives a little easier. And with such a high misuse rate, car seats are a lot more challenging to install than most people even realize. That’s why it’s so much more important to have a trained tech install the car seat for you.
If for whatever reason you are unable to have a tech install it, be sure to read the car’s owner manual on how to install it properly.
11 Wait To To Move To A Booster Seat
While kids may want to grow up and move on from their car seats to the big kid booster seats rather quickly, it’s still best to keep them in the car seats for as long as possible. The reason for a booster seat in general is to help older kids fit into their seat belts properly. And kids can switch over to their booster seats from their car seats when they have reached the height and mass limits set by the car seat manufacturer. But don’t rush things because tethered car seats are still much safer than the booster seats.
10 Incorrectly Using A Booster Seat
Just when you think you have finally learned how to properly install and use a car seat, your kid is now ready to move onto the booster seat. However, with a brand new seat comes a whole new set of problems and not to mention, instructions.
With booster seats, they need to be used with a shoulder belt as well as a lap belt. And the lap belt needs to lie against your child’s hips and the shoulder belt need to lie against, you guessed it, their shoulder and chest.
Granted, a booster seat set up is easier than a car seat, but you still want to make sure you’re using it properly.
9 Knowing Your Seat And Consider Going Convertible
A problem that some parents face is having to deal with their child growing faster than they age. As a result, they are left struggling to figure out when to switch to a front-facing seat due to the height and mass limits. Conversely, some kids will reach the age recommendation of a front facing seat before they reach these limits. That’s why some doctors recommend a convertible car seat with higher limits, so the child can’t outgrow it. This way, the child can remain in the rear facing position for a little while longer.
8 Keeping Them Rear Facing
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s much safer to have your kid sit in a rear facing car seat. There’s just no way around it. It’s always best to keep your little ones rear facing for as long as possible… or at least until they’re two years old and have reached the mass and height limits. Moreover, the reason that it is so much safer is because they do a much better job at not only supporting the child’s head, but the neck and the spine too because in the event of an accident, the seat is able to distribute the force much better.
7 Not Letting Your Child Sleep In A Car Seat
I don’t know about you, but I can very easily fall asleep in a car. Not when I’m driving, of course. That would be ridiculous. However, as easy as it may be and as good as a quick nap may feel for an adult to fall asleep in the car, it’s not ok for an infant to sleep in a car seat. Sleeping in a car has been found to be the direct cause of getting hurt in many different cases. Just remember that car seats weren’t meant to be portable cribs.
6 Never Teaching A Child How To Unbuckle Their Seat
I know… I know… wouldn’t it be great to be able teach your kid how to unbuckle themselves from their car seat for when you have to attend to another kid or having to deal with all of the groceries. It would be one less thing to have to worry about. Nevertheless, as nice as this may seem, it is definitely not a good idea. Come on, kids don’t always listen, and they’ll probably try to unbuckle themselves at the the most inopportune time. Kids may not be aware that what they are doing is dangerous so it’s best for them not to know how to unbuckle themselves and leave the buckling and the unbuckling to the adults.
5 Staying Informed About Recalls
You’re probably thinking that once you buy that brand new top of the line car seat, you are all set. What’s there to worry about? Your baby’s car seat is the latest and the greatest. Well, I’m afraid that that is not always the case. There is always the risk of a malfunction or defect with the car seat, and as result, could come the dreaded recall.
Most of the time, news outlets will be the first to report on these recalls so that would be the easiest way of finding out about it. Another way would be to check the government recall list.
4 Always Check The Seat Before Leaving The Car
What parent would ever forget to leave something in their car, let alone their child in it? Look, we always think that things can never happen to us until they actually do. And accidents are called accidents because they’re not planned. They’re… accidents. Accidentally leaving a kid in an overheated car is not only harmful, but it is entirely possible. Your mind can be on a million different things and before you realize it, you could have left your little one in the car. Moreover, you never want to leave your kid in the car intentionally, like when you have to make a quick stop in a store.
3 Using A Newborn Car Seat Adjustment
Baby seats are normally designed for kids starting at about 5 pounds. However, that doesn’t leave many options for preemie babies or babies that are extra small.
That’s why there are newborn car seat adjustments that are inserted into the car seat to help keep these babies in a safe position.
Moreover, these newborn car seat adjustments even have extra angles for when you recline them so that their heads don’t fall forward. It would seem that these car seat manufacturers really have everything covered. From car seats, to convertibles, to newborn seat adjustments, what will they think of next?
2 Replacing It In The Event Of An Accident
Normally, when anything is involved in an accident, you should, and will probably end up having to replace it. That applies even more so to your child’s car seat. Of course, this all seems pretty obvious. However, this gets a little tricky when there is an accident, but the car seat isn’t visibly affected. If the accident is relatively minor, then no, it probably doesn’t need to be replaced. But what about if the accident was a little bit more severe? Then yes, you should definitely replace the car seat.
When in doubt, throw it out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
1 Always Using A Seat
I know what you’re thinking, that this last one should go without saying. But I just have to say it. You should always use a car seat for your child. Even if you go on vacation, you should be using a car seat. Just because you leave your stress at home when you go on vacation doesn’t mean that it’s ok to leave the car seat at home with it. There are even kid-friendly taxis with car seats so that’s one less thing you have to worry about. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that when it comes to car seat safety, always use a car seat.