There’s no question that car seats save lives. Having a properly installed car seat is crucial for the safety of children riding in your vehicle. Most hospitals won’t allow you to leave with your newborn without first inspecting your car seat. But what do you do once you’re home? How do you decide which car seat is the right one for your child, and how do you make sure you’re using your car seat properly? Here’s our top list of things you need to know about car seat safety.
The importance of car seat safety
If you are in a car accident and your child isn’t properly secured in the right type of car seat or booster, he could be seriously injured. Car crashes account for 1 in every 4 unintentional injury deaths in children, and many of those are due to children riding without the proper restraints.
Using your car’s seatbelts isn’t enough because they are designed to fit adults. In an accident, a seat belt may not protect your child from harm, or even cause an injury due to its placement on the child’s body. Until your child is big enough that a seatbelt sits properly on his body, the safest place for them is in the back and in a car seat.
Types of car seats
There are several types of car seats, and which one you choose will depend on how old and how big your child is.
Rear-facing car seats are safest for newborns and infants. The harness, base, and padding minimize the stress to a baby’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a collision.
Forward-facing car seats still have the harness to limit a child’s movement during a crash, but they do not cushion and cradle a child’s body like the rear-facing. For this reason, forward-facing car seats are generally not recommended for newborns and infants.
Booster seats help correctly position a car’s seatbelt on an older child’s body. Some booster seats also come with a head and neck support for extra protection.
Choosing a car seat
Which car seat is right for your child depends on your child’s age, height, and weight. There are also other factors to consider when choosing your car seat. If you are expecting a child, you’ll want to purchase a rear-facing only seat, as these are specially designed for newborns. Once your little one outgrows this car seat, you may want to purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat that can be modified to fit your child as he grows.
Remember, the safest place for your child is in the back seat. Make sure the car seat you choose fits comfortably and correctly in the backseat of your car. Many car seats have angle indicators to make sure they are in the correct position.
Before purchasing a car seat, talk to your pediatrician for their recommendations on your child’s car seat needs. You can also check with trusted resources, like the National Highway Traffic Administration.
Car seats may seem expensive, but they are a worthy investment. A used car seat may be damaged or defective, so unless you’re getting your car seat from a trusted friend or loved one you should plan to purchase a new one.
Installing your car seat
Your car seat should come with detailed installation instructions. It is important to read and follow the instructions when installing your child’s car seat. If this is your first time installing a car seat, check with your local hospital for a car seat safety and installation class. Some local fire stations also conduct car seat installation classes.
Other car seat safety tips
Car seat safety depends on you. Create a culture of car seat safety in your household by following these tips:
- Make sure children always ride in the back seat.
- Use a car seat every time and in every vehicle.
- Let older kids know they are expected to sit in a booster.
- Set a good example by wearing your seatbelt every time.
- Do not start the car until everyone, including you, is buckled in safely.
With this helpful information as your guide, you can choose the right car seat for your child’s needs and help them ride safely everywhere they go.