Did you know that 43% of children who die in car crashes aren’t properly restrained? Every time we get in the car with our children, our most important job is to ensure that they are as safe as we can make them. That job starts well before we turn the key in the ignition.
To ensure that your child is as safe as possible in the car, you should do a car seat safety check every time you buckle up. But what should you look out for before you get behind the wheel of the car? Keep reading to find out.
Your Complete Car Seat Safety Check List
First, we’re going to give you our step-by-step guide to ensuring that your child is safe every time you get in the car. Putting your baby in a car seat isn’t as easy as plopping them in the best baby lounger out there. It takes some work.
Keep in mind that this checklist is entirely dependant on the fact that you are following all car seat safety laws and have installed your seat correctly.
1. Is the Harness at the Right Height?
All car seats have a selection of different heights for you to place the shoulder straps, also known as the harness.
If your child is rear-facing, ensure that the shoulder straps are just below your child’s shoulders. If your child is front-facing, the straps should be at the shoulders or just above the shoulders.
2. Is the Harness Tight?
Once you have buckled your child in, you should not be able to pinch the safety belt and pull the material between your fingers. If you can pinch the belt between your fingers, you need to find the extra slack and fix it.
3. Where is the Head Rest?
If your child is rear-facing, leave an inch of space from the top of the car seat to the top of your child’s head. If your child is in a front-facing convertible seat, the tops of the ears need to be below the top of the seat shell.
With this step, make sure you read your car seat’s guidelines closely. Each different seat model will have different guidelines. Follow the guidelines closely to ensure your child is as safe as possible.
4. Where is the Chest Clip?
Regardless of whether your child is forward-facing or rear-facing, the chest clip needs to be at the armpit level. Remember, it’s called a “chest clip,” not a “belly clip!” In the event of an accident where the chest clip is not in the right place, your child could be ejected from the seat.
5. Check the Crotch Buckle
As with the safety harness, there will be multiple slots to secure the crotch buckle. This is another area where you should check your manual to make sure that the crotch buckle is in the right place.
If you have a very small newborn, you may need to use a snugly rolled blanket to secure the harness where it belongs.
6. Bulk Check!
Lastly, make sure your child is not wearing too much bulk. This includes heavy winter coats. When you use heavy jackets or thick clothing, you won’t be able to get the buckle tight enough.
This renders the seat entirely useless.
Important Car Seat Safety Guidelines to Follow
Now that you have a checklist to use every time you get in the car, let’s make sure that your car seat is as safe as possible before it’s time to buckle up.
Don’t Get a Used Car Seat
Car seats can be expensive. But even the cheapest car seats have to pass rigorous safety checks to be allowed to sell in the United States. But buying a used seat to save money could wind up costing you.
Car seats have expiration dates. These are put in place to make sure that car seats are always up to date with the most recent safety developments. Also, sitting in hot cars can warp and damage the plastic.
Once a car seat has been in an accident, it is no longer a functioning seat. Can you say with absolute certainty that the used car seat you’re looking at meets all these standards?
Do Not Use Post-Manufacturer Devices
Adding toys, extra padding, and other extras that aren’t created by the manufacturer can cause devastating damage in the event of an accident. Car seats are tested with whatever the manufacturer provides, and you can’t ensure that your child will be safe if you add extras onto the handles.
Read the Manual
We can’t stress this enough: you must read the car seat manual. This will tell you where the safest place to install the seat is, how to recline it properly, and how to install it.
Rear Face as Long as Possible
Lastly, you may be tempted to flip your child around to face the front as soon as possible. In our minds, our children will be more comfortable if they’re forward-facing. We can see them and make sure that they’re happy.
But turning your child around before the manual’s guidelines tell you it’s safe could be deadly.
Make sure your child stays rear-facing until they hit the max weight for that seat. If you can, find a seat that allows you to rear face for as long as possible.
This is the safest position for any child, no matter their age. Even when their legs get too long, it’s safer for them to be rear-facing.
Remember this phrase: “Broken leg, cast it! Broken neck, casket.”
Follow All Car Seat Safety Laws
Now that you know all the ins and outs of a car seat safety check, you can have peace of mind that your child is safe every time you buckle them into the car. It takes a lot of work to travel safely with children. But as long as the whole family gets where they need to go in one piece, it’s all worth it.
For more of the top news in health and safety, keep reading.