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September is National Car Seat Safety Month. If you would have asked me about car seat safety 2 years ago, I really had no idea. It’s scary to me to think that I used to care for my nieces and a close friend’s child with no real knowledge about car seat safety. Thinking back to the things that I may have done, I’m thankful that nothing ever happened to them.
Thankfully, a met an amazing group of moms when I was pregnant who taught me all about the safety precautions that I needed to take to make sure that Skibbles is safe. Maya Angelou’s quote has always remained with me, but even more since having a child– “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Since learning everything I know about car seats, I have become somewhat of a car seat crazy mom, but it’s all in the spirit of hopefully helping!
So here’s 15 Things that I Didn’t Know About Car Seat Safety Before Having a Child:
1. Car Seats have expiration dates.
This isn’t a ploy to get you to spend more money. It is very serious though and the plastic on both the car seat AND seat base can deteriorate over time. Also safety standards change every few years and this allows for you to be using the most up to date and safest seats available.
2. Extended Rear-facing.
Most people assume that one year is the automatic date for being able to turn your child from rear facing to forward facing, but the truth is that a child is 75% safer rear facing than forward facing. SEVENTY-FIVE TIMES!! The AAP recommends that children be rear facing for a MINIMUM of 2 years OR until they reach their height/weight limits of their seat. The best thing to do is to get a car seat with the longest height/weight combo to keep them rear facing as long as possible.
3. Chest clip at arm pit level.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s called a chest clip. Not a belly clip. The chest clip should be above the nipple and right below arm pit level. See your car seat’s manual for an image.
4. Straps shouldn’t be loose – do the Pinch Test.
The harness should be tightly secured to the child. To test slip a finger under the strap, if you can pinch the strap material, it’s too loose.
Bonus: The car seat base once installed also shouldn’t be able to move more than an inch side to side or front to back.
5. No bulky clothing. No bulky coats. No Snowsuits!
This one is HUGE! HUGE! Are you listening!? Fall and winter are coming and it’s going to be cold. OH NO! But don’t you dare put that puffy coat on your child under the harness straps. In the event of an accident, bulky coats compress and can actually eject your child from their seat. Want to know if your coat is safe? Put the child in their coat, then in their seat. Adjust the straps to fit with the jacket on. Then remove the child’s jacket and put them back into the seat without re-adjusting the straps. If you can fit more than two fingers under the strap by the child’s shoulder bone, the jacket is not safe to use. Instead, after putting the child in the seat, put a blanket on them, put their jacket on backwards, or buy a car seat poncho
6. No clipping onto top of shopping cart! NEVER EVER EVER!
Shopping carts say no seats on top. Even if you “think” you hear it click, it’s never actually safe. EVER. The only place your car seat should be is on the floor, in the base, or on your stroller. That’s it. This also goes for not placing on top of restaurant high chairs, beds, benches, tables, countertops, and more. Seats can fall from these high surfaces and cause deadly consequences.
7. Seatbelt or anchors, not both
Whether you are forward facing or rear facing your child’s seat you should either be using the car’s seat belt OR the anchors. They are both equally safe but not together. Check both your car seat manual and your car’s manual to see what is recommended for your specific car seat.
8. Convertible car seats have belt paths
There is one for forward and one rear facing and this makes a huge difference in safety, so please make sure your using the right one
9. Only soft toys should be kept in a car
I actually learned this in a college safety course about keeping your car safe for yourself and that any non-secure object can become a projectile in a car accident. However, I never thought about it pertaining to children. Toys should be soft in the event that a crash happens so more damage isn’t down.
10. Don’t be quick to move your child into a booster seat or out of a booster seat.
I can’t stress this enough. I often see children in seats (or lack thereof) that they shouldn’t be in yet. You child should remain in a 5-point harness as long as possible (this typically will be well into pre-school age) as this is the safest thing possible. Once the weight and height limits are reach in a forward facing seat then a high back belt-positioning booster seat should be used. A child should not being using a seatbelt alone until they are 4 foot 9 inches, which typically happens between 8-12 years old. Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat.
11. No extras– NO EXTRAS!
If it didn’t come standard with your car seat, then it’s not safe to use with your car seat! No harness covers, no infant head supports, nothing that attaches to your seat. All of these things alter the seat and can affect the fit, and in the event of a crash will void your manufacturers warranty. So just don’t do it.
12. No twisting straps
Twisted straps happen often, but it’s extremely important that they be fixed before driving away. Twisted straps don’t spread out the force of a crash like flat straps will can and they can actually cut into a child in the event that a crash does happen.
13. Even in fender benders, you should ask your car seat manufacturer and insurance company about replacement seats.
Typically if you can drive away from the crash site, no injuries to car occupants, and air bags didn’t deploy – your seat is probably safe. However, if your insurance company will replace the seat, you should just go ahead and do it. You never know if the inner working mechanisms have come loose, even in a simple fender bender, and in this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry later.
14. Kids flying are safer in their car seats.
This was one I was completely unaware of at all. However, not only is your child safer in their seat for safety purposes in the event of a plane crash, but this will also be safer while traveling once you reach your destination. This is because you don’t know if rental car seats have ever been damaged or recalled, so you are safer to use your own. Also, many rentals don’t have extended rear facing seats available. Lastly, you never want to check your car seat into baggage claims because of the treatment of checked in often being shoved and pushed around. Just don’t take the risk.
15. Dispose of car seats properly.
If you are taking all these precautions already, great! One last thing, when your seat does expire, or you need to replace it, make sure that you dispose of it properly. Some parts can (and should) be recycled. Contact your local recycling center to what can be recycled in your area. For the rest of the seat, the strap webbing should be cut so others cannot use these seats improperly if found in a landfill.
So what are our recommendations? We have both the Safety 1st 3-in-1 Elite Air 80 and a Diono Radian RXT . We love them both and they both have extended rear facing options. Skibbles seems to be more comfortable in the Safety 1st, but the Diono has a longer rear facing limit.