Although most parents place their children in car seats while riding in the car, the latest NHTSA report states that almost 80 percent of those car seats are not used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. It is as important to follow these guidelines as it is to use the car seat at all.
From the moment your baby is brought home from the hospital he or she should always be in a car seat while riding in a car. Any car seat used should meet federal regulations for car safety. Good car seats can be purchased at children stores and other general purchase stores such as Target and Wal-Mart. Always buy a new, not used, car seat when purchasing one. Because you don’t know the car seat’s history used seats from unknown people are not a good idea. Once car seats have been through a car accident they should be destroyed. This is due to structural damage that may have been done to the seat during the impact. Even if there is no visible evidence there may be damage.
Infants weighing less than 20 pounds should face backwards in the car. One type of car seat that accommodates this is an infant car seat that will hold the baby up to 20 pounds only. These seats have only one option for strapping them in the car in a rearward facing position. These are probably the most common car seats used for small infants today because they are the most versatile. They can be used as an infant carrier when out of the car and some can even be used as an attachment on a stroller.
Another type of car seat is a convertible seat. These seats can be strapped in rearward facing for infants less than 20 pounds and forward facing for infants over 20 pounds and toddlers.
Toddlers need to be strapped in a car seat until they are 4 years old AND weigh 40 pounds. For older toddlers, a variety of toddler booster seats are available for purchase. These however should only be used when the child is heavy and large enough to properly fit in the seat.
When buckling a car seat into the car it is important to follow the instructions for the car seat and for your particular car. Some cars have specific guidelines for installing car seats. The safest place for a child under the age of 12 is in the back seat. The middle seat in the back has also been recommended for placement of the car seat as it may be the safest place. NEVER PLACE A REARWARD FACING CAR SEAT IN A SEAT WITH AN AIRBAG. This can seriously injure or kill the infant if the airbag deploys.
Common Reasons for Car seat Misuse
These are some common mistakes made by users when installing and using infant and child car seats.
1. Seat belt Placement
When strapping in the car seat make sure the seat belt goes through the correct slot for the position the seat needs to be in. There are often pictures on the seat to indicate where belts should go.
2. Locked Seat belts and Locking Clips
Shoulder strap seat belts need to lock when securing a car seat. There are two ways to lock these belts. First pull the seat belt out all the way and let it snuggly strap the seat in. If it has locked, you will not be able to pull the belt out again. If it has not locked you need to install a locking clip near the buckle of the seat belt. Locking clips are provided by the manufacturer of the car seat and should come with the seat when you purchase one. Follow manufacturer’s directions for this installation.
3. Handles on Infant Car seats
Handles on infant car seats need to be in the down position when being used as a car seat. In an accident the handle in an up position could become a danger to the baby.