5 Things Parents Need to Know About Your Child’s Car Seat
Sharilyn Wagner, RN, with Franciscan Health car seat safety program, shares 5 things parents need to know about car seats and how to keep their young children safe.
1. Wrinkles Matter
Harness straps should not allow slack; the strap lies in a relatively straight line without sagging yet does not press into the child's shoulders creating an indentation.
“If you can make a fold, this is very dangerous,” Wagner said. “You should not be able to make a pinch in any of the six areas.”
2. Don’t Accessorize
“When you first get a baby, you get all these fun things. You get harness covers, mirrors, shade covers, all these different things that are all fun,” Wagner said. “They're really cute, but none of them are recommended. They all could be hazardous in an accident.”'
3. Say Goodbye to Old Seats
It’s not a deal to buy a used car seat or not replace your car seat after an accident. Hairline cracks in the car seat may not be easily visible, Wagner said. You should NEVER use a car seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash.
Most insurance companies will replace your car seat after a crash. The old car seat can be recycled as well.
4. Rear-Facing Makes a Difference
“One of the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to rear face as long as possible, now for the height and weight of the car seat,” Wagner said. “You want to make sure that you take care of your precious cargo.
“Now, people are always worried about their feet. It's okay. A broken ankle is a lot easier to fix than a broken neck or spine. With forward facing they have (the potential of) more damage to their legs.
5. Recommendations Have Changed
Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced updated recommendations on car safety seats. The key change? Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat, even if it’s after the age of 2.
The AAP now recommends:
- Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.
- Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
- When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.
- When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
- All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, using the right car safety seat or booster seat lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent. In a crash, the car seat’s hard shell supports the child’s head, neck, and spine, and the car seat absorbs most of the impact. When the child is forward-facing, however, the harness straps restrain the body, but the head can get thrown forward, which can cause injuries to the head and spine.
Other car seat safety tips
Once you can safely turn your child’s seat around, your child should keep riding in the car seat until the he or she reaches the maximum forward-facing weight or height limit. Here are some more ways you can help protect your child in the car:
- Check that the harness straps fit snugly against the child’s body.
- Slide the chest clip to armpit level to keep the harness straps secure.
- Never use a car seat that’s been in a crash, has been recalled, has cracks, is missing parts, or is beyond the expiration date that appears on the label.
- Remove bulky clothing, such as winter coats and snowsuits, before putting your child in the car seat—in a crash, they flatten out and your child could get thrown from the seat.