In 2016, 732 children below the age of 12 years were involved in car accidents and in 2017, 72% of child motor vehicle crashes led to death. Of all the children who died in car crashes, 35% were not safely restrained to the car seat. According to experts, restraining children in child car seats reduces fatal injuries by three quarters for kids aged 8 years and below.
A child car seat is a crucial safety equipment every parent must use. As a parent, using the car seat properly for child safety can reduce fatalities during a crash. Unfortunately, most dads and moms never realize the mistakes they make.
Today, we look at car seats and what steps parents need to take to ensure their kids are safe when driving. Taking these steps before driving off with your child ensures that your child survives any crash with little or no injuries.
#1.Secure the car seat
A lot of parents never secure the child car seat properly. Actually, most parents think they have secured the car seat but no. What parents need to do is follow the instruction’s manual. This makes it easy to install and secure it. To test if the car seat is secure, grasp the seat at the base with both hands. Move the car seat front to back and then side to side. What did you experience? Is the seat secure or do you need to make adjustments? If the seat moves more than 1 inch either direction, it’s not secure.
If you drive off with your child in a loose seat, in case of a crash, your child can seriously injure her head or face. This is not what you want. To ensure your child is safe, take a look at the instruction manual. Is the car seat secured to the LATCH system? If your car has no LATCH system, is the car seat secured to a locked seat belt? To secure the car seat using the seat belt, tighten the belt and lock it. This is a crucial step that parents always miss.
#2.Rear vs forward facing
Another mistake that parents make is selecting the position of the car seat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should be in a rear-facing position. The only time parents can position their children in a forward facing position is when the child is 2 years and above. Also, the child must have attained the maximum height and weight of the car seat.
What most parents do not realize is that although their kids are growing, their bones are not strong enough. At a young age, the back is the strongest part of the body. As such, it can absorb immense forces in case of impact. If the child is in a forward facing position, the risk of death is high in case of a crash. So, to keep your baby safe, make sure the car seat is in a rear-facing position. Remember, the only time you are allowed to change the position is when your child attains the maximum weight and height of the car seat.
#3. Getting the recline angle right
Babies have weak neck muscles and heavy heads. If you do not recline the seat to the correct angle, it can interfere with breathing. For instance, if the seat is too upright, the baby’s chin will be too close to the neck. This will block the airway making it difficult for the baby to breathe. When you recline the car seat to the right angle, not only do you protect your baby’s spine but you also promote proper growth and development.
Thanks to improved technology, car seats have a built-in indicator. This indicator acts as a guide and helps you select the right angle. According to experts, reclining the car seat around 45 degrees is ok. It is always important to consult the instruction manual for the recommended recline angle. If the seat cannot recline well, some manufacturers will offer a few additional tips.
To be on the safe side, shop for a seat that enables you to set different reclining angles in the rear facing position. Remember, newborns should have a more reclined seat than older babies. Why? They don’t have strong neck muscles.
#4. Center vs Side
Based on research, the center of the back seat is the safest place to secure a car seat. For starters, the car seat will be supported by the driver and passenger seat. Second, the seat is secured using safety belts. Thanks to the rear-facing position, your baby is assured of safety as you drive.
If you have two kids – a baby and an older child, place the car seat on the side and allow the older child to occupy the center. Placing the car seat in a rear-facing position on the side protects the baby against impact. It is important to note that kids may not get along. To avoid fights between the kids, install the car seats on the side. Doing this will eliminate any fights and protect your babies from injury in case of a crash.
I know you may be asking yourself if installing the car seat on the side is a good decision taking into account side impact crashes. Well, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, placing the car seat in a rear-facing position protects your baby from side impacts. In case of side impact, forces are absorbed by the car protecting the baby from any fatality.
#5. Use a tether
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the forward facing position once your baby is 2 years or older. At this age, your child’s neck muscles are strong and can support the head. When the time comes to install the car seat in a forward facing position, use a tether. The tether is the most important component for a forward facing car seat. Every forward facing car seat comes with a tether. It is located at the top of the car seat and has a hook. To install the tether, secure it to the anchor located at the back of the seat. Every vehicle manufactured after 2003 in the US has three tether anchors for the back seat. The tether anchor allows you to install and secure three front-facing car seats. Using a tether decreases the chances of the child’s head hitting the back of the front seat.
A front facing seat is normally secured using a five-point harness. What you need to know is that booster seats have no tethers. To secure your child in a booster seat, use the vehicle’s seat belt.
#6.Harness chest clip – wrong spot, wrong slot
The harness clip is designed to ensure that the straps are in the right position. To ensure your child is safe and secure, the harness clips need to be at the center of the chest. If the harness clip is in the wrong spot, the straps can slip off. If this happens and you end up crashing the car, the chances of your baby being ejected from the seat are high. As such, your baby will suffer serious injuries. To prevent this, you must position the harness clip at the center of your baby’s chest.
Car seats are designed with three sets of harness slots. The top set of harness slots is for the forward facing position while the lower set is for the rear-facing position. When the seat is in a forward facing position, the tether is the only reinforcement that keeps the harness secure. A vast majority of parents never take the time to adjust the harness straps properly. In case of a crash, the harness can break through the seat.
To secure your baby, make sure the harness straps are at or above your child’s shoulders. You may be required to adjust the recline angle of the car seat to an upright position. If you are unsure what position is ok for the shoulder straps, check the instructions manual.
#7.Right seat for your child
Let’s face it. Shopping for the right car seat is not easy but this is not an excuse to buy the wrong car seat for your child. Using the right car seat for your kid depending with their height and age improves their safety. To make the right choice, there are a few factors to consider. Type of seat is one of the factors to consider. As a parent, you have the choice of an infant seat, convertible seat, all in one seat and front facing seat. Other factors to consider include safety label, five-point harness, brand, and cost. Last, there is always the question of buying new or used. We all know that money is tight and this may force you to buy used baby items. To ensure the safety of your baby, it is highly recommended that you buy a new car seat.
As your child grows, so is the need for a specific type of seat. Each seat is designed to accommodate a baby or child with a certain height and weight. So, if your child is under the height and weight limits of the car seat, he or she will not be protected properly. To know the weight and height limits of the car seat, consult the instruction manual. It is recommended to take your child to the store when buying a new car seat. This allows you to gauge the fit. Good luck!