Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A Friendly Reminder: Car Seat Safety
I'm a car seat safety freak, and with perfect road trip weather on it's way, I wanted to remind everyone of some key car seat safety points.
1. Of course, always always always use your car seat. Whether you're going down the street, across town, or 500 miles...Auto accidents are by far the leading cause of death for American children.
2. Keep your child rear facing as long as comfortable (within the weight limits of the seat). Rear facing is safest for a child of any age. Even adults would be safer rear facing, but it would be a little tough to drive that way.
3. Please, do not purchase your car seat at a garage sale or secondhand store. Minor accidents may not outwardly show, but they weaken the car seat, making it likely to fail in an accident. Not to mention pieces may be missing, it may be under recall, or could be expired. Car seats grow brittle with age, so make sure yours is less than 10 years old, preferrably under 5. Many seats now include an "expiration date".
4. Don't move your child out of her car seat or booster too soon. Children should be in a 5-point harness until they are 40 lbs, and in a booster until they are 4 feet 9 and 8 years old.
5. Keep the harness tight and straps un-twisted. You should barely be able to fit your fingers under the straps. Remember when you first brought your precious baby home from the hospital and were so careful to have the straps tight and perfect? Also, keep bulky clothing to a minimum, as in an accident, bulky clothing can compress and allow your child to slip through the straps.
6. Do not use any accessories that didn't come with the seat. This includes head rests, strap covers, and buntings or car seat "slipcovers". These items have not been crash-tested and may affect the car seat's function. The "slipcovers" are especially dangerous, as they don't allow the straps to fully tighten, causing children to slide out during a crash when the cover compresses and the straps become loose. (I'm not talking about the covers that go over the seat to keep baby warm, but the ones that fit under the straps, that the child sits on top of. I don't know if I'm explaining this very well..)
7. If you don't have a vehicle with LATCH, make sure the shoulder strap is always locked. If your vehicle's straps only lock in case of a sudden stop, use a locking clip. See your car seat manual for instructions.
8. Finally, make sure your car seat is installed tightly. There should be no more than an inch wiggle room on any side. When installing my children's seats, I kneel in the seat to compress them and allow for a tighter fit.
For more safety tips and how to avoid common mistakes, visit babycenter.com.