Car safety for babies is a more serious undertaking than most parents realize.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children from ages 1-12. But they concluded that age and size appropriate restraints do in fact do their jobs to keep kids safe — when used properly.
The problem is that many adults are either unaware of all of the car seat laws for children, or they don’t realize the importance of abiding by them. It could be the difference between life and death.
The CDC predicts that a child’s risk of death could be reduced by 71% for infants through the proper use of child safety seats.
Now, those are numbers we like to see. There is a solution to keeping your baby safe in a car-- and it comes down to the proper car seat, with proper installation and restraint.
Here is the breakdown for keeping your baby safe in the car:
Babies Need Rear-Facing Seats
This is Baby Car Seat 101. But, you have to start somewhere.
Infant car seats (which usually double as baby carriers) are designed to face the rear of the car. They usually have a five-point harness system that secures the carrier to the car seat at a comfortable angle for the baby.
These car seats are always to be installed in the back seat of a car, and never in the passenger seat.
Whatever car seat you choose to invest in for your little one, make sure that you read the manual thoroughly before installation. Without proper installation, your car seat will not function correctly, which will put your baby at risk. You will want to be aware of any extra features that can help keep your baby safer.
Know and Follow Your State’s Car Seat Laws
Each state has different car seat laws, so it is important to know what your state requires.
For example, Texas child seat belt law states that any children under a year old and/or under 35 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing child seat in the back seat of the car. But in California, the law is simply that all children younger than two be in a rear-facing seat.
Check your state’s child passenger safety laws before you buckle in your precious cargo to know you are safe and law-abiding in your vehicle. Knowing and following car seat laws is the best way to ensure your child’s safety in a car.
Let Your Baby Max Out Before Moving Up a Seat
As you can see from the differences in state car seat laws, there are some discrepancies between the best time to move your child up in the car seat world.
Once your infant meets the requirements, he/she will move from the rear-facing seat to the forward-facing safety seat.
Across the board, the law requires infants under one year to be in a rear-facing seat. But many parents and professionals recommend that you keep children in the rear-facing seats as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies in rear-facing seats until at least the age of two.
As a rule of thumb, you should let your child max out of the requirements instead of moving up once they hit the minimum requirements for moving up to the next car seat type.
Invest in a High-Quality Car Seat
With car crashes being the leading cause of death in children, it is definitely worth it to splurge on a good-quality car seat with excellent safety ratings. Make sure to check all the features before you buy and check that it will work in your vehicle.
Be aware that car seats have expiration dates. Since they are made out of plastic, which can become worn-down and brittle, they do not last forever. Think twice before accepting or buying a hand-me-down car seat, because it probably isn’t worth the risk.
Keep Straps Snug and in the Correct Position
Many parents worry themselves with the thought that the car seat straps are too snug on their baby. When in reality, they are probably just right. Experts find that most children are riding with straps that are too loose rather than too tight.
You want the straps to fit snugly on your baby. After you buckle your baby in, if you can pinch the strap between your thumb and forefinger and the fabric comes together, then it is too loose. Properly tightened straps will have no extra slack to be able to be pinched between your fingers.
Making sure the straps are in the correct position are also key to keeping your baby safe in their car seat.
Always use the chest clip, and make sure it is in the correct position. It should be level with your child’s armpits. It shouldn’t go lower than their tummy or higher than the armpit line across their chest.
When installing the seat itself, you will want to make sure the seat is strapped down snugly in the car. It should be tight enough that it moves less than one inch from side-to-side, and forward-and-back when you pull on it.