Every time you get behind the wheel, can you say your child is in the safest possible position and buckled in the seat properly? Would you bet his/her life on it? Have you read your car seat manual front to back and the owner’s manual to your car? Who does? Even if you had the time, with all of the details that go into installing a car seat properly, it can be an overwhelming amount of information.
Did you know that unintentional childhood injury is the leading cause of death and disability for children ages 1 to 14? Not to be Debbie Downer, but injury and death can occur due to mistakes, short cuts, and bad choices made when installing a car seat or when buckling your child in. Safe kids is a national organization formed to educate parents about safety. One of the FREE services they provide is car seat checks and installations. The hands on experience with an expert who has been trained to install and teach you about car seats is invaluable.
We took our infant car seat to safe kids before C was born, for both cars, and when she graduated to the bigger seat. I’m so thankful that my husband does not have an ego when it comes to seeking guidance from an expert. At our appointment, Officer Lonnie gave us a mini education course about car seat safety, explained how our brand of car seat worked with our car model and made sure we understood how to properly install it ourselves. As an officer, he has witnessed many car crashes throughout his career and volunteers his time every week to this organization in order to prevent tragedies he has seen. He is so passionate about this cause and so are the many other volunteers that work with SafeKids.
Here are some key points:
YOUR CHILD SHOULD BE REAR FACING FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. It is SO.MUCH.SAFER. Our car seat goes up to 40 lbs rear facing, then 70 lbs forward facing. That could mean she might be 4 years old before having to face forward! She can learn to sit criss cross applesauce. As officer Lonnie puts it, “broken necks or spines are much harder to fix than broken legs”. He gave us a simple physics lesson to explain how a child is far better protected when rear facing in an impact. Another point was made that having legs dangle off the front of the seat can also cut off circulation. Children might in fact be more comfortable rear facing. They are flexible and can bend their legs!
I’ve heard friends say their child doesn’t like to rear face or they like to be able to see them. This justification doesn’t make sense to me when your child’s safety is on the line. But I’m sure they just don’t understand how much safer it is or they would make a different choice. That’s why I think car seat education is so important.
WHEN POSSIBLE, PUT YOUR CAR SEAT IN THE CENTER SEAT, NOT THE SIDE. It doesn’t take a rocket science degree to figure this one out. In a side impact, even 1 foot difference can be a life saver. Sure it might be a bit of an inconvenience to load your child in the center, but again, at what cost? Here’s where it is a bit complicated. Most cars, even new cars, don’t have the latch system in the center seat. Manufacturers are only required to put two sets of latches in. In an assembly line situation, it’s easier to put them on the side. Thanks car industry! So, you have to use the seat belt instead of the latches. Perhaps a bit more work when installing. But! the payoff is so worth it! When a second child comes along, of course 1 of them will have to be on the side and 1 in the center, unless you have a limo. HaHa!
MAKE SURE THE HARNESS IS TIGHT ENOUGH AND IN THE PROPER POSITION. The shoulder straps should be at or below the shoulders and the chest strap should be right at the nipple line or underarms. When checking for tightness, you should not be able to pinch any material together just above the chest strap. Buckling them in is NOT enough. It must be tight.
These 3 points are pretty universal. But, there are even little details such as not adding anything to your car seat, like pads, toys, seat protectors, or even those shades that stick on the windows. All of those bells and whistles you can buy have not been crash tested with the car seat. And, things fly in an impact. Even more importantly, when actually installing the car seat, there are so many variances depending on the brand of car seat and the make/model of your car. That is why it’s important to have an expert check and/or teach you to install it properly.
It’s so easy to do. Just call and set up an appointment. They have them weekly in your area. You can never be too busy to make sure your child is as safe as they can be in your car!! If your heart is set on facing your child forward before they have to according to their weight, I hope you will consider making an appointment and turning your child back around!