Catherine Hiles
No Comments

Car Seat Rules to Keep Your Kids Safer

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Car seats are designed specifically to keep little ones safe while riding in a car. But used incorrectly, car seats can be much less safe than you think they are. The following rules will help you ensure your child is as safe as possible on the road.

Safety Awards: See which Buick and GMC models are ranked among the safest SUVs

Always buy new

The first safety rule for car seats hinges on the purchase. According to Reader’s Digest, parents should always purchase a new car seat, because a used one could have been involved in an accident and had its safety compromised.

Look for your car seat at a store whose staff is trained on car seat installation. They can help you choose the seat that will best fit your car and will give you options that fit your budget. Once you’ve made your purchase, they may help you install it in your car to make sure you get a good and safe fit.

Go by weight, not age

Don’t rely on a child’s age to be the determining factor on a car seat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention give age ranges for when your child should be in different types of seats. For example, the CDC says that children should be rear-facing from birth until age 2-4. But depending on your car seat’s height and weight limits, you may be able to keep your child rear-facing past their fourth birthday.

Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the move from a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness to a booster seat comes around the time a child starts school. But if your seat’s weight limits allow your child to remain in the five-point harness for longer, then that is the safest choice. Once you child outgrows the forward-facing seat, it’s time to switch to a booster.

As an example, the seats I chose for my children can rear-face until 45 pounds and forward-face until 65 pounds. My three-year-old is around 35 pounds and will remain rear-facing until he hits that 45-pound limit which could be before or after his fourth birthday. And my first grader is just under 60 pounds, so she has a little while until I’ll switch her to a booster.

Make sure it’s properly installed

The car seat should be secure — no jiggling or moving should occur while in transit. When you install your car seat, push down on it before tightening the LATCH webbing or seat belt. Once tightened, the seat shouldn’t move more than 1 inch in any direction; any more than that and it’s not going to do its job properly in a collision.

If you’re not sure whether you installed the seat properly, or just want an expert to check your install for your peace of mind, search for a Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area.

Keep checking the fit

The number of times per day parents get their child in and out of the car seat is often too high to count. With all that movement, the straps will inevitably relax and loosen. It’s important for parents to monitor the fit of the straps regularly, at least every few weeks.

To check for snugness, see if you can slide more than two fingers between the strap and your child’s chest. If you can, then the straps are too loose and you need to tighten them.

Also bear in mind that your child should not be wearing bulky clothes while strapped into the car seat because it can cause the straps to be too loose to keep your child in the seat in a collision.