Did you know September is National Baby Safety Month? It is! In fact yesterday – September 18 – kicked off Child Passenger Safety Week which will run through this coming Saturday, September 24. With an entire week focused on kids, cars, and safety, I figure this is the perfect time to go over some car seat safety tips, because, let’s face it, even veteran parents forget sometimes. Luckily, there are easy ways to fix these errors so your little ones can travel safely.
1. Straps are too lose. When you put your child in the car seat, the straps should rest snuggly on your child’s shoulders. If the straps are loose, there’s a chance that the child could be ejected from the vehicle in the event of an accident. To check your child’s car seat, simply try pinching the car straps after putting your child in their seat. If there’s enough material to fit between your fingers, the straps are too loose.
2. Turning the car seat around too quickly. New parents are often eager to turn their child’s car seat around, but you have to be careful when doing this. Infant seats should never be turned forward facing. Convertible car seats can be turned forward facing, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children remain rear facing until the age of 2. I highly recommend waiting as long as possible to turn your convertible car seat around.
3. The clip is down too low or too high. The chest clip is just that – a chest clip! In order to be effective, it must be in the perfect position on your child’s chest, at armpit level. This is particularly important because the clip is designed to keep the straps properly in place. Since clips can sometimes slide down between uses, make sure to set it in the proper position at the beginning of each use.
4. Transitioning to a booster too quickly. Booster seats are generally intended for kids between 4 years and 8 years old, and some doctors – like my pediatrician – recommend you waiting to place your child in a booster seat. Remember, car seats are based on weight, not age. While your child may meet the minimum age of 4, but might not meet the minimum weight. Check your seat for it’s minimum weight requirement. Also keep in mind that many states are extending the age that kids are supposed to stay in booster seats, so check your local laws before moving your child out of the booster seat.
5. Winter clothing. Bulky clothes don’t belong in a car seat, because they will impact how the straps fit your child. Remove your child’s jacket and then buckle them in to the seat. When it’s particularly chilly out, we leave blankets in the car for kids to use.
6. Accessories. I know, I know, they’re so tempting when you’re out at the baby store, but those cute car seat toys and mirrors that play music can become projectiles in the event of an accident. Car seat foot covers, strap covers, protector mats, and pads may affect the fit of the car seat and it’s ability to properly be latched into the car. It’s best to skip aftermarket accessories all together.
7. Putting a child in a car seat in the front seat. It’s scary, but it happens. Car seats should always be in the back seat; a child is safest in the backseat.
8. Buying a used car seat. Let’s face it car seats are expensive, but this isn’t the place to save money. Used car seats may have been involved in an accident and suffered damage that can’t be seen. That means that if you get into an accident the car seat won’t be able to provide the protection that your baby needs. To save money on car seats, hunt for coupons online, look for trade-in events in your area, or purchase off Amazon. The Cosco Scenera is a great seat if you’re on a budget.
9. Using an expired car seat. Car seats do expire. Car seats are made of plastic which can become brittle. Always check your child’s car seat before putting it in your vehicle.
10. Not anchoring the child’s car seat appropriately. Car seats can easily be installed using latch, but make sure you pull the latch straps so the car seat can’t move and don’t forget to tether the seat before using latch! If you’re concerned about the installation of your seat check your local police station, fire station, or pediatrician’s office to see if they’re having a car seat installation event in your area.
Do you have any “common mistakes” to add to this list?