There is no cargo that you will ever carry that is more important than your kids. Keeping them safe in the car is one of the most important tasks you have as a parent, and a key to that is making sure that they are in the proper car seat or booster seat. From selecting the right seat to ensuring you are using it properly, let’s talk about how car seats work.
Here’s your guide to car seats and booster seats.
How effective are car seats?
Car seats are imperative when it comes to traveling with children. Experts agree that the use of a car seat reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 71%-82%. Booster seats reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 45% for kids ages 4-8 according to the CDC. It’s estimated that since 1975 when car seats were first introduced, over 11,500 children's lives have been saved. But car seats are only effective if they are size appropriate, installed properly, and used correctly.
What are the different types of car seats?
As your child gets older and heavier they will gradually transition to different car seats and booster seats.
#1: Infant Car Seat, rear-facing used from birth until ages 1-2.
The first car seat you will get is a rear facing seat that is installed in the backseat of your car. This type of seat should NEVER be placed in the front of the car, as an airbag deployment can cause death or serious injury. Your baby should stay in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, until they are either too tall or too heavy for the seat. Most children will stay in their infant car seat until they are between one and two years old. It’s important to check the limits on your infant car seat and get a new car seat when your child has outgrown it.
#2: Read-facing convertible seat.
When your child outgrows their infant seat the next step is the convertible seat. It should be used in a rear-facing position for as long as possible, as this is the safest position for a child. The age, height, and weight that your child will outgrow this will depend on the specifications of your car seat.
#3: Front facing convertible seat.
When your child reaches the height and weight limit for rear-facing mode, it’s time to switch to a forward facing car seat. This typically happens between ages 4 and 7, depending on the size of your child.
#4: Booster seat.
When your child outgrows their car seat they still must remain in a booster seat. They should be at least 4 years old and be able to sit up independently for an entire car ride. If your child is still unable to sit up comfortably for a long car ride, it may be better to get a car seat with a higher height and weight limit until they are comfortable on their own. Booster seats are designed to give children a boost so that the vehicle’s seat belt straps can fit them properly and work effectively. Kids should remain in a booster seat until they are at least 4’ 9”.
How do I properly install my car seat?
Each car and car seat is different in how they install and operate. It’s best to consult your car’s owners manual in conjunction with the car seat manual to determine how to install it. If you are unsure if your car seat is installed properly, check with your local fire department or hospital to find out when the next car seat checkup event is. Here’s how to know if your car seat is installed properly:
- It will not move more than one inch from side to side or front to back.
- The harness straps are at or below the baby's shoulders for a rear-facing seat.
- The harness straps are at or above the child’s shoulders.
- You should not be able to pinch any material on the shoulder straps.
- The angle of the car seat is correct, as indicated by a level marker on most car seats.
When is it time to get a new car seat?
As your child reaches the weight and height limit for each car seat, it’s time to get the next size car seat. But there are a few other times that you may need to get a new car seat:
Your car seat has expired.
Car seats come with expiration dates that help ensure that certain components do not become too worn or damaged. The lifespan of a car seat is typically 6 years. Refer to the owner’s manual to determine when your car seat is no longer safe for use.
Your car seat was in an accident.
If the car seat was involved in an accident it’s a good idea to replace it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing it if any of the following things occur:
- The collision caused any injuries.
- The vehicle was towed.
- The door nearest to the car seat was damaged.
- The airbags were deployed.
If the accident was a simple fender bender with no real damage, the car seat is most likely fine. But exercise good judgment when determining whether or not to replace the seat.
There is any damage.
Car seats put up with a lot of abuse over time, and it’s possible for daily wear to cause substantial damage to the car seat. If you notice any cracks or loose parts, it’s best to replace the seat. Damage can cause the seats to be less effective.
How can I keep my kids safe in the car?
Aside from properly installing and using a car seat, there are other things you can do to keep your children safe in the car.
- Keep kids under 13 in the back seat.
- Keep kids rear-facing for as long as possible.
- Remove coats and bulky clothing before securing your kids in the car seat. This will keep the harness closer to their bodies and provide more protection. Use a blanket or drape their coat over them to keep them warm in the winter.
- Resist using car seat accessories that did not come with the car seat, such as padded straps. These items have not been tested for safety.
- Register your car seat with the manufacturer. This will keep you up to date on any recalls or product updates that you may need to know.
That’s what you need to know about car seats.
There are a lot of car seats on the market, but the best car seat is one that fits your child, works with your vehicle, and is used properly. Proper installation and proper daily use are imperative.
You know what else is imperative? Saving money on your car payments! Contact Auto Approve today to find out how much money you could be saving!