Whether you are on your way to the grocery store, the bank, or school, be sure you and your children get there safely. Use the following tips to make sure you are using the right car seat, the right way.
1. Do not let your child ride in the front seat
It may be convenient to strap your baby into the passenger seat where you can easily reach her, but it isn’t safe. Your kids should be buckled into the back seat of your vehicle until they are about 13 years old.
2. Do not ignore the car seat’s instructions
Car seat instructions are usually pretty dull reading—but the information they include is essential. Make sure you know how the car seat should be safely installed. The instructions should tell you which slots to put the seatbelt through and how to adjust the straps to properly secure your child.
The information that comes with your car seat will also include an expiration date and tell you what age, weight, and height the seat is built for.
3. Do not buy a used car seat
A good car seat can be expensive—but it’s not a good idea to go looking for a used seat to save money. Without knowing the history of the car seat you could wind up purchasing one that had been in a crash or one that was simply too old. Most car seats expire after 6 years, even if they haven’t been in a wreck.
If you do get a used car seat, make sure it’s from someone you know and trust. That way you can be sure it is still safe for the road ahead.
1. Make sure your child’s seat is facing the right direction
Infants should always be in a rear-facing car seat. It is recommended that you keep your baby in a rear facing car seat until they are at least one year old—some suggest two years. Other car seats base the recommendation on weight and suggest keeping the baby in the rear-facing seat until he reaches about 22 pounds.
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, it is time to switch to one that faces forward. Check the recommendations on your specific seat.
2. Choose a car seat that is right for your child’s age, height, and weight.
As mentioned above, the car seat you own will come with specific information on size and weight restrictions. Use the recommendations that come with your seat.
Once your child is older, you may need to switch them to a booster seat. If your child’s ears are above the car seat, or his shoulders are above harness slots, it is time to make the switch. Since seatbelts in cars aren’t built for small children, a booster seat is essential to making sure the seatbelt fits correctly over your child.
For more information about what seat your child should be in based on their age, visit this link.
3. Make sure the seat is secure
To make sure the car seat is secure, wiggle it. It shouldn’t move more than an inch from side to side or front to back.
4. Check the shoulder straps of the car seat
Once you’ve verified that the car seat is securely attached to the seat, make sure your baby is secure. Check the shoulder straps on the car seat. If you can pinch the fabric the strap is too loose.
Use the tips listed above to make sure your child stays safe while you drive. To be sure you are using your car seat correctly, look for events in your community that provide free, professional safety checks. Local insurance companies, police departments, and schools often offer these checks. Your children are your most precious cargo—transport them safely by using their car seats correctly.