Ultimate Guide to Car Seat Safety [ Tips & Law ]

Seat Safety

Keeping your baby safe while driving is important. Car seat safety is something you should know first.

The majority of car seats and booster seats are misused, which makes them almost useless.

When there is a car crash, your child’s car seat must be properly protected. Knowing how to properly buckle them, where to place the seat, and when to upgrade is more important than simply strapping them in.

To learn how to protect your baby best, we provide all the information you’ll need.

Benefits of using a Car Seat:

There is always a risk of crashing, regardless of how good of a driver you are. Being prepared is essential since it isn’t always your fault. You need to read these eye-opening statistics.

  • In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children between the ages of birth and 12 were not provided with a car seat for a year. Six hundred and eighty thousand children rode at least once without a car seat or booster.
  • The number of children who died in car accidents last year was approximately 723, aged 12 and under. In addition to car seats and boosters, this figure includes people without them. 35 percent of those in safety devices were not buckled up correctly or incorrectly.
  • There were about 128,000 car crashes that injured children between the ages of birth and 12. Baby car seats are also included in this statistic, whether they are used or not.
  • In another study, approximately 40% of the children who were riding without a seat belt were also riding without a driver’s seat belt.

U.S. policy has focused on reducing child car crash fatalities since 1975. There were 677 fatalities in 2017, which is a decrease from the previous year. However, many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Car seats are essential for children, as these statistics illustrate. It is especially difficult for mothers to sit in the front, listening to their babies cry during a car journey. Your child’s life is at risk if you take them out of the seat.

It is estimated that car seats and proper restraint systems saved 9,611 children under the age of five between 1975 and 2010.

Injuries to the spine and neck are common among infants and toddlers. It is significantly less likely that your child will become injured if they are properly strapped in and in the right car seat.

Check Also: Best Infant Car Seats

Types of Car Seats:

You wouldn’t buy the same car seat for a 4-year-old as you would for an infant. The three types are listed below to give you an overview.

1. Rear Facing

It is recommended that infants and toddlers ride in rear-facing car seats. You’ll be able to spread the force of a collision around your baby if you’re in a crash with a rear-facing car seat. As they move with the child, they protect the child’s head and neck and help their body slow down more gently to a stop.

It is recommended to use a rear-facing seat until your child reaches the height and weight limits of a convertible car seat, rather than limiting them to a specific age.

Weight limits are usually set at 40 pounds. It is typically suitable for children between the ages of 3 and 8. An average 4-year-old would still be able to use some with weight limits up to 50 pounds.

You can determine your baby’s height limit by measuring the distance between the top of his or her head and the top of the seat. A clearance of at least 1 inch should be maintained. A less-than-ideal system usually indicates that it needs to be upgraded. Each car seat has its own rules and limitations, so always read the manual before using your car seat.

Rear-facing car seats are available in three types:

  • Seats for infants

Newborns and infants should use infant car seats. Small and portable, these seats are designed to be used rear-facing only. The average weight of a baby outgrows these seats between 25 and 35 pounds.

A convertible seat or all-in-one can be used once your child has outgrown the infant seat.

  • The car seat that converts

An adjustable harness and tether are used to convert convertible car seats from rear-facing to forward-facing. You can use these rear-facing seats for longer periods of time than infant seats since they accommodate larger babies.

  • Car seat with all-in-one features

An all-in-one car seat can do it all, as the name implies. When your little one is ready, you can switch them from rear-facing to forward-facing. When your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, you can convert it to a booster seat.

2. Forward-looking position

The shell and seat of a forward-facing seat are connected by a tether. You should use a five-point harness with straps over each shoulder, around the hips, and between the legs to keep your child secure.

There is no set age limit for the infant car seat, either. Typically, children are between the ages of 2 and 7.

Check your child’s weight and height limits to determine if they are outgrowing the forward-facing seat. According to the manufacturer, the weight limit for five-point harnesses can range from 40 to 90 pounds.

Make sure the booster’s weight limit is also verified if it converts to a seat. Booster seats and harnesses can sometimes have different weight capacities.

Be sure to check the shoulder and head heights. The top of your child’s seat should never be higher than the ears. It is also important that the shoulders are lower than the slots for the harness straps.

Additionally, forward-facing seats come in two types:

  • Car seat that converts

When your child is old enough, you can turn the rear-facing seat into a forward-facing seat. When you plan to have another child, it’s a good idea to invest in a convertible car seat like this.

  • Combined car seat

The forward-facing combination seat still has a harness and tether for safety, but it can be converted into a booster when your child reaches the appropriate height. For both harnesses and boosters, make sure the weight limit is high.

  • Car seat that does it all

Suitable for rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seating, this car seat grows with your child. When your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, you can convert it to a booster seat.

3. Seat boosters

Following forward-facing seats are booster seats.

  • As soon as your child can use a seatbelt without a lift, they stay with them.
  • As soon as your child measures 4 feet and 9 inches tall, you should place them in a booster seat.
  • Between the ages of 8 and 12, this is generally the case.

Booster seats fall into two categories:

  • High-back booster

There is a built-in shoulder belt guide on this type of chair, along with some head and neck support. You can still keep your child comfortable while he or she wears a seat belt.

Children who fall asleep in car seats can benefit from high-back boosters because they give them extra support during long car rides and travel. Having a high back helps them stand up straighter.

If your child slumps over, the belt will not fit properly, which could lead to injuries. Cars without headrests, new booster riders, and children in need of additional support are recommended to use high back boosters.

  • Booster with no back

Seat belts fit properly when your child is seated in a backless booster seat. The seat belt is held in place by belt guides. Booster seats with backs must be used in a seat position with a headrest if you want your child’s head and neck to be protected.

A Guide to Finding a Safe Car Seat:

Car Seat Safety
Car Seat Safety

It is essential to find the perfect seat, as you may have guessed. It’s something you should buy before you deliver your baby if you’re expecting it. A car seat may be required by the hospital before you are allowed to leave with your new arrival – and for good reason.

Checklist of things to look for:

We are all worried about our baby’s safety when buying their first car seat. Several things are worth considering when choosing an infant car seat – including:

  • Choose a convertible: The first year goes by quickly – your newborn will be a toddler in no time. In lieu of an infant car seat alone, we recommend a convertible car seat. For a couple of extra years, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
  • Make sure your car seat fits your vehicle before you buy it. Make sure the back seat has enough room. It’s important, especially if you need more than one seat. Check your car’s manual for more rules about child restraints.
  • Are you going to secure the seat with the seat belt or the LATCH system? Many modern vehicles support LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). You may not be able to do this in all middle seats, so check first.
  • You should make sure that your harness has an easy-to-secure and undo the buckle, especially for people who are not caregivers. Please ensure that the shoulder straps are situated below shoulder level – they should be raised and placed over the shoulders rather than being placed below the shoulders. Make sure that the harness can be adjusted easily as your baby grows.
  • Look for a seat with, or that allows for, inserts to provide extra head support for your newborn. If you fall, you won’t be safe if you use neck pillows or inserts from another brand.
  • A seat with energy-absorbing foam will reduce the force of an impact around your child if there is a crash. A simple clean surface is also recommended. Our babies are experts at making messes, so you can thank us later.
  • Make sure the side walls are thick as well as the barriers around the head so you can be protected from side impacts. Some don’t include this, so make sure you check.
  • After purchasing your car seat, make sure you register it. If there are any recalls or updates, you will be notified.
  • A good-looking fabric doesn’t hurt anyone, but it’s not a critical factor. You’re likely to see the seat every day, so you should choose one that matches the interior of the car.

Don’t do these things:

It is recommended to avoid certain car seats. Before using, make sure these things are present.

  • An out-of-date car seat has a lifespan of six to ten years. It is possible that you will be given a hand-me-down seat. Do not use anything that cannot be verified as old.
  • Buying a seat without a label stating the model number or manufacturing date is a bad idea. It won’t be possible to check if it has been recalled.
  • Seats that are recalled: When a manufacturer recalls a seat, it means there is an issue. Recall seats should not be purchased or used. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the manufacturer can provide you with more information.
  • The hood may have more damage if visible cracks are present. You should steer clear of such seats since they reduce safety.
  • Instructions not included: If you are purchasing a secondhand seat, or obtaining a hand-me-down from a family member or friend, ensure the instructions are included in the package. For safety reasons, instructions are essential for every seat installation.
  • If you inherit a car seat from a friend that is missing one or more components, make sure that you are able to replace those parts. It should not be used if it does not meet these requirements.
  • The car seat should not be used if it has been involved in an accident in which the vehicle has been damaged.

Installing a car seat the right way:

There are two systems that can be used to install a car seat – the LATCH system and the seatbelt system. The following instructions will help you with each. Please read the instructions included with your specific seat:

LATCH System

By attaching a strap with hooks to the LATCH anchors in your vehicle, you can secure the car seat. Almost every vehicle sold in the U.S. after 2003 has at least two of these.

You do the following:

  • The two lower anchors are attached to the car seat’s belted hooks. Rear-facing babies can skip this step.
  • Tether attachment: Seats facing forward have a belted hook at the top. You can attach the tether anchor to the vehicle’s seat back or to the floor behind the seat. Pull the tether over and attach it to the anchor. The instructions and owner’s manual for your car will tell you if it has one.
  • Make sure the seat is secure by grabbing the seat near the belt path and pulling it side-to-side and rear-to-front firmly. Any movement should not exceed an inch.

System of seat belts

Whether your car has a LATCH system or not, the seat belt can be used just as effectively if it does not. The steps are as follows:

  • Check the instructions for the seat belt path and locate it on the seat. A colored opening is usually indicated, through which the belt is pulled.
  • Using the marked openings, feed your seatbelt through and buckle it up.
  • By slowly pulling the seat belt to its full length – listen for a click – you can lock the retractor system to prevent the seat belt from loosening. Feed the retractor gently backward, feeling for ratcheting motions. You may find a button in your car’s owner manual if nothing changes.
  • Ensure the tether is attached to the seat or car floor hook if it’s a forward-facing seat.
  • Ensure the car seat is secure by moving the car seat from side to side and from front to back while placing your hands on the belt path. A maximum of an inch should be allowed for movement.

The 10 Best Tips for Car Seat Safety:

The majority of car seats are improperly installed or mishandled. You can stay as safe in your vehicle by following these ten safety tips:

1. Buckle up everyone

Seat belts aren’t just for children. It is important for everyone to buckle up in the car for a number of reasons.

Your child will learn a lot from your example as they grow up. It is our responsibility as parents to set an example for our children. Your 3-year-old should buckle up when you sit freely, but how do you tell him to do that?

The second reason is safety. Without a seat belt, you put yourself and your fellow passengers at risk. You become a missile when you are in a crash because the force is so high.

Your baby’s unbuckled companion in the backseat is no different. If that person crashes hard, your baby could be crushed. Despite buckling up the child, another passenger’s irresponsible actions could still result in their injury.

Although it sounds horrific, it’s essential to know about it. In case your seat belt is uncomfortable, you may be able to adjust it.

2. Make sure you don’t get distracted

It is distracting to entertain the baby, take photos or videos, speak on the phone, or send texts. With precious cargo such as human lives, you must always keep your eyes on the road.

Listening to your baby cry from the front can be stressful. Your child’s journey can be made more enjoyable by a few things you can do. The following are among them:

  • Your baby should be comfortable at all times. It’s important to make sure that they have enough head support, aren’t too hot or too cold, and that their clothes don’t scratch or pinch.
  • Play with your favorite toys or listen to some music. A fussy baby can be distracted by colors, lights, and sounds. It might be a good idea to look for a musical car seat mirror, but only if it can be securely attached to prevent it from becoming a projectile if it is damaged during transportation.
  • If you’re planning a long trip, try scheduling it during your baby’s naptime or bedtime. I use it every time I take a long trip, and my little one sleeps through it.

3. Tether straps should always be used

As soon as your baby is seated forward-facing, you need to make sure the seat does not whip forward in an accident. The tether strap is used for this purpose.

In a baby car seat, the tether strap is located on top. You secure it in the anchor over the back seat of your car. Tether anchors are usually located behind or on the back seat of a car.

When the car seat is hit, it will not whip forward. The spinal cord and neck of your child are minimized. During testing, the baby’s head launched six inches further forward without the tether attachment.

There are tether hooks behind the back seats of most cars produced after 2000. If you drive a minivan or SUV, double-check. Tether straps are standard on all forward-facing car seats, as well as some rear-facing seats.

4. In the middle of the car seat, place the car seat

It is statistically safest to install the car seat in the middle position. When the child is involved in a side-impact crash, he or she is farther away from the potential impact point on each side. Your child should be placed where it can be safely installed, and this is the most important factor. The car seat should be installed correctly rather than in the middle.

Place the child that is most vulnerable in the center position if you have more than one passenger in the back seat. Your situation may vary. If you are unsure about the best setup for your family, contact a Child Passenger Safety Technician.

You can use the seatbelts if the middle seat does not have any LATCH hooks.

5. Straps should be snug

Your baby needs the straps to stay secure, so they’re there for a reason. However, many of us, unfortunately, tend to keep them too loose. Even when it’s not tight, toddlers and older children complain.

Ensure that the shoulder straps are tightened so that there is no slack at the shoulder. In addition, make sure the chest clip is sitting at armpit level.

6. Winter clothes should be removed

Don’t overheat your baby during the winter.

Heavy coats and thick clothing should not be worn in the car seat. Otherwise, the harness may not be able to be tightened enough. It’s not a good idea to risk the baby slipping out or being whipped around.

Furthermore, infants might have difficulty breathing due to heavy clothing. Instead of wearing restrictive clothing, wear boots or a small blanket. On the other hand, ensure your child doesn’t overheat – if you feel hot, it’s likely they do as well.

7. Angle correction

Infants often flop forward because their heads cannot support themselves properly. There is a risk of blocking airways or injuring the neck if you do this.

You can prevent it by tilting the top backward at a 45-degree angle. You should be able to measure the correct angle of your car seat by using the recline indicator on the side. To achieve this angle, you can lift one end of a towel (if your car seat manual permits it).

8. Make sure the installation is correct

A certified Child Passenger Safety Technician should check your new car seat once it has been installed. Additional information and verification can be provided by them regarding the installation.

The peace of mind you get from trained eyes can make all the difference. Assuming isn’t enough when it comes to car seat safety.

9. Booster seats shouldn’t be rushed

In an accident, booster seats help position the seat belt correctly in order to protect your child adequately. They are the last step before no seat at all. Your child must demonstrate maturity in order to upgrade.

There should be no excessive leaning over, slouching, or playing with the seat belt. The seat belt cannot protect your child if your child is unable to sit still in a booster seat. It is important to position the seat belt correctly.

It usually takes kids at least 6 years to reach this stage – some even later. Changing your child’s weight should be done when he or she weighs at least 30 to 40 pounds.

Booster seats shouldn’t be removed until the child is ready. A seat belt should be worn low on the hips and around the shoulder to minimize injury. You can use the 5-step test to determine when your child is ready to graduate from a booster seat by following its guidelines.

10. When a car seat is involved in a crash, it expires

When a car seat is involved in an accident, it expires. The seat is thrown away after a moderate or severe crash. The seat’s effectiveness may be compromised even if there’s no visible damage. For further guidance, contact the manufacturer of your car seat if you are unsure.

Contact your insurance company to find out what coverage you have. If deemed necessary after an accident, some companies reimburse for new car seats.

Safety laws for car seats:

This quick guide covers who, what, and where you should buy a car seat for your child, regardless of age or stage.

During the first six months of life

  • The car restraint (capsule) must be rearward-facing and incorporate a five- or six-point harness system with an anchor point for lap-sash seatbelts as well as a top tether strap.
  • You should position this capsule backward, not forwards. An infant restraint may only be used in a vehicle with one row of seats (such as a ute or pickup truck) if the passenger airbag has been disengaged and the tether strap has an anchoring point.

A Four-Year Period from Six Months

  • Depending on the child’s age, they may use either a rearward-facing or forward-facing car seat that incorporates a harness and is secured by a seatbelt and top tether.
  • Having your six-month-old baby face forward is legal. Rear-facing is recommended as long as possible and until the child physically outgrows the seat (such as Kidsafe). All the positions are safe, but this is the most secure.
  • Rear-facing restraints must be removed once the child has outgrown them. In addition to a forward-facing seat with a harness and a top tether strap, you should keep your child in a harness-style seat until they are at least four years old.
  • If a vehicle has two or more rows of seats, children in this age bracket cannot sit in the front seat. As with the ‘Up to Six Months’ category above, if it has one row, the same rules apply.

A child’s fourth to the seventh year

  • These kids can use an approved high-back booster seat that has a lap sash seatbelt or harness, or a forward-facing child seat with a harness.
  • We no longer manufacture cushion booster seats (without head or side impact protection) and they’re off the Safety Standards. Nonetheless, they’re legal, and you should put them in the middle position so you don’t get hit on the side.
  • The position of your seat. All back seats in a vehicle with two rows or more must be filled with children between four and seven years old.
  • You should use a lap-sash seatbelt if possible if your booster seat comes with a tether strap.

A child aged seven or older

  • Booster seats with harnesses or lap-sash seatbelts are recommended for children seven and older. An adult seatbelt (ideally a lap-sash seatbelt) may be used for children aged seven and older.
  • Children should remain in a booster seat until they have physically outgrown it and can properly fit into an adult seatbelt, regardless of their age.
  • Take the Kidsafe five-step test to determine if your child is ready to move out of a booster.
  • The rear seats of a vehicle are always the safest for children ages 12 and under.
  • When using a booster seat or alone, seat belts should never be fastened with the sash section behind the child’s back or under their arm.

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