It’s no secret that car seat safety is extremely important for parents, especially those with young children. And while proper use of child safety seats can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a crash, far too many parents don’t take the time to properly check and maintain their child’s car seat.
It’s so important for parents to keep their children safe while driving, but it can be hard to remember all the steps necessary to do so. Even if you think you’re doing everything right, car seat safety guidelines and practices are always changing. You don’t want to risk your child’s life by not following the most recent recommendations. That’s why we’ve put together this car seat checkup list for parents. Go through this list every time you get in the car with your little one to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them safe.
1. Checking for Seat Damage
It is important to check your car seat for any damage before each use. Look for cracks, fraying, or any other sign of wear and tear. If you see any damage, no matter how minor, do not use the seat and replace it immediately. This is especially important if the damage is in any of the straps or fastenings, as these are vital to keeping your child secure in their seat. Now is also a good time to make sure the car seat is not expired. Check the manufacturer’s website or the car seat itself for the expiration date.
2. Ensuring the Harness is Properly Fastened
One of the most important aspects of car seat safety is making sure the harness is properly fastened every single time you sit. When done correctly, the harness should be snug against your child’s chest and low on their hips, with the straps coming from the correct slots in the seat. You can check if the harness is tight enough by trying to pinch any slack material between your fingers. If you can do so easily, the harness is too loose and needs to be tightened. Make sure to check the harness regularly, as children grow quickly and may need a tighter fit over time.
3. Checking for Proper Seat Installation
It’s not enough to just have a car seat – you also need to make sure it’s installed correctly. Improper seat installation is one of the leading causes of car seat accidents, so it’s crucial to get it right. The best way to check is to consult your car seat’s manual and follow the installation instructions carefully. It’s a good idea to practice installing the seat ahead of time so you’re confident you can do it correctly when it matters. You can also get your car seat installation checked by a certified professional.
4. How to Properly Secure Your Child in a Car Seat
Once your car seat is installed, it’s time to secure your child in their seat. Make sure the harness is fastened snugly and that the straps are coming from the correct slots. Now you need to make sure the car seat is properly secured in the car. The seat should be level and not moving around, as this can be dangerous in the event of a crash. You can use the car’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the car seat, but make sure you’re using it correctly. Again, consult your car seat’s manual for detailed instructions.
5. Keeping Up with Car Seat Safety Guidelines
It’s so important to keep up with the latest car seat safety guidelines, as they are constantly changing. The best way to do this is to sign up for alerts from car seat manufacturers and safety organisations. That way, you’ll always be in the know about the latest recommendations. You can also check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website for car seat safety resources and updates.
6. Keep them in the right place
If you can, keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. After that, they can ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Once they outgrow that seat, they can use a belt-positioning booster seat until the seat belt fits them properly. It’s important that you keep all children in a back seat until they are 13. And finally, when they’re big enough, they can use the adult seat belt in the car. If you have any questions about car seat safety, don’t hesitate to contact a certified professional.
7. Finding the right car seat for your kid
Double check your child’s seat for any tears or stains before using it to make sure that harmful material won’t be ingested by them when you least expect it. There are a lot of things to think about when you buy car seats, but the most important thing is making sure that they’re appropriate for your child’s age and weight. Make certain everything still looks good by visually inspecting labels. When something expires on a shelf at home there are usually ways around expiration dates but with car seats you need an extra pair of eyes.
8. Conduct detailed inspection
When inspecting your car seat, pay close attention to the plastic and look for any cracks. Also, check all of the straps to make sure that they are not frayed or damaged in any way. The last thing you want is for your child’s car seat to break in an accident. If you find any damage, it’s best to replace the car seat as soon as possible. Give your car seat a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side-to back or front to forth? A properly installed cushion should not rock over one inch in either direction. When installing a car seat, always make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check your manual). Next pinch at armpit level to ensure there isn’t any excess webbing.
9. Check the manual
Always consult your car seat’s manual for specific instructions on how to properly use and install it. The manual will also have a list of recommended car seats that are compatible with your vehicle. It’s important to follow the manual’s instructions carefully to ensure the safety of your child. If you’re ever unsure about anything related to car seat safety, it’s always best to seek professional help. There are also many certified child passenger safety technicians who can help you with all of your car seat questions and needs.
The list above should help you navigate the often confusing world of car seats. Make sure to read through your manual and check off each item.