Summer Road Trips = Car Seat Safety Checks
July 28th, 2017 | Richard M. Williams
Warm, sunny days bring out more impromptu rides and road trips! Whether it’s a short trip for an ice-cream cone, or a several hour drive to the shore, make sure your little ones are buckled in securely and safely when you venture out on the road.
Every 33 seconds, a child is involved in a car crash. That’s more than 2600 kids, every day – an astounding number, that can easily be avoided. And, while most parents have become more vigilant in using car seats, the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that at least 59% of those seats are installed incorrectly.
There are basically three types of car seats: rear facing, forward facing and booster seats. Each seat is designed for a very specific age, height and weight group, so you will want to be sure you have the right seat for your child. Be sure to check the label for weight, height and age limits.
- Buy a seat that has all of the features you want included. Buying an aftermarket part for your car seat may reduce its safety.
- Don’t buy a used car seat. Harness straps can wear, and parts that you cannot easily see can break. It can be unsafe it has been used in a crash, if it has been recalled, if there are missing parts, labels or instructions.
- Make sure you register your seat so that you are notified of any recalls.
- Car seats DO expire. Look for an expiration date on the label.
Make sure you follow all of the instructions in your car seat owner’s manual for installation. And, refer to the owner’s manual for your vehicle. Not all cars allow for car seats everywhere there is a seatbelt.
- The back seat is the safest place to ride for all children under age 13.
- Choose either the seat belt or latch installation option for your car seat, but don’t use both. Use whichever method provides the better, snug fit for your vehicle. There are weight limitations on the latch method, so be sure to read your car seat labels.
- Take the INCH TEST. A properly installed seat should not move more than one inch when moved side to side or front to back. This rule applies no matter which installation method you use – seat belt or latch.
The Best Fit
A properly fitted 5-point harness helps keep your child protected. It is the strap that goes over both shoulders, both hips and buckles between their legs. Check your car seat label for height and weight to make sure your child has not outgrown it.
- Adjust shoulder straps as your child grows.
- Keep your child in a 5-point harness for as long as possible. Don’t be in a hurry to move up to the next seat.
- Take the Pinch Test. If you can pinch seat belt webbing, it is not snug enough. Your fingers should slide off a snug fit.
- Bulky clothes, such as a winter coat, could hinder the safety of the 5-point harness and your car seat. After warming up the car, put your child in their seat, without their coat. After they are buckled up properly, cover them with their coat or a warm blanket.
Age 2 and under should ride in a rear-facing seat. If you are in the most common type of crash, a front-end collision, a rear-facing seat allows the child’s head, neck and spine to move evenly in the seat instead of away from it.
After age 2, and they have outgrown rear-facing seat, your child can move up to a forward-facing seat with a 5 point harness. They should continue to use that seat until they meet its height and weight limits according the manufacturers’ guidelines, however, some children may need a larger 5-point harness seat as they grow and develop. Keep a close watch on the seat’s height and weight limits.
Moving up to a Booster seat is a big move. Make sure your child is ready by height, weight and behavior. You want to make sure they are ready to be able to sit on their own without worry.
For additional information, go to www.UltimateCarSeatGuide.org, or HKQKids.org.