Summer is quickly approaching, and for many families that means traveling more – including road trips. Recently, numerous cautionary tales have been circling the internet about the tragic loss or injury to young children due to improper restraining while driving. This year, make sure that you’re ready to hit the road by first ensuring that your kids are safe by following these critical car seat safety guidelines.
Get The Right Seat
It’s not hard to be overwhelmed by the number of options available to parents today, but it is crucial that you select a seat that is appropriate for your child’s needs. Parents are encouraged to keep their children in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible, so children 2 years and younger (or within the height and weight requirements) should be in a rear-facing seat.
Also, once your child has grown out of the recommended height and weight for a rear-facing seat, they should be kept forward-facing for as long as possible before switching to a booster seat.
Parents are advised against purchasing a used car seat, as it can be difficult to determine whether the seat was involved in an accident before, has been recalled, has expired, or that it’s not missing any parts. As expensive as new seats can be, keep this in mind before you pick one up at a local consignment or garage sale.
Ensure Proper Installation
Once you have the appropriate seat for your child, it’s important to ensure that it is installed correctly in your vehicle. Car seats are safest in the back seat, where they are away from active air bags. When installing your seat, you’ll want to be sure to read all instructions, including the manual that came with your car so that you can identify where any anchors are available to install the seat with.
If you are using a seatbelt to secure your car seat, make sure that it has locked in place. Once the seat has been installed, it should move no more than an inch in any direction (if it does, it is not secured properly).
Nervous about getting it right? The good news is, you can take your car seat to your local fire or police department and they will be happy to help you install it correctly!
Make Sure Children Are Properly Restrained
This not only includes considerations regarding how your child is buckled in, but even what they are wearing when they are in their car seat.
Car seat straps should be free of twists and tangles, should be secured tightly, and the chest strap buckle should be positioned even with your child’s armpits. Although this is typically less of a concern in the summer months, be sure that your child is not wearing any bulky clothing when they are buckled in, as this poses a serious safety hazard to them.
If an extra layer is required, drape a blanket over them after they have been properly secured in their seat.
Once your child has graduated to a booster seat (or is booster-free), be sure that they keep the shoulder strap in place and that they aren’t slipping it behind them during the drive.
Protect Their Long-Term Health
Although all of these considerations are important to the short-term safety of your child, practicing proper car seat guidelines will also protect your child’s health well into the future. If your child is slouching in their seat, for example, it can not only pose as a safety hazard, but can also create spinal injuries and discomfort that could carry on into adulthood.
To help prevent slouching, you can roll up a couple small towels or baby blankets and place them on either side of a newborn to help them fit snugly in their seat. If necessary to prevent slouching, you can also tightly roll a small towel (washcloth size) and place it between the crotch strap and your baby.
If you are concerned that your child may already have injured or misaligned their spine through poor posture while riding in the car, you are encouraged to take them to a chiropractor to get checked out.
A proactive approach to addressing these types of injuries can spare your child from pain and other ailments in the future.