HKQ Kids

Car Seat Safety

If you do it every day, it can be easy to forget: driving can be dangerous. There’s a reason why there are so many laws, rules, and regulations when it comes to the road. Children are especially at risk of vehicle-related injuries; a child’s body is much less capable of withstanding the force from an impact than that of a fully developed adult. However, this risk can be lowered by taking a few precautions. For kids, buckling up isn’t nearly enough. In fact, seat belts aren’t even specifically designed to protect children in the event of a crash. Seat belts alone are only really useful once the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest. Until then, you’ll want to make sure you know which type of car seat is appropriate for your child and how to properly install them.

Types of Safety Seats and When to Use Them:

Birth to age 2+:

For infants and toddlers, use a rear-facing seat. Most crashes are typically front-end collisions; a rear-facing seat protects your child’s upper body and allows evenly distributed motion within the seat. Rear-facing seats should be used for as long as possible without exceeding the seat’s height/weight limits; children typically outgrow it by age 2, but a rear-facing seat may be best for a year longer or so, depending on the child’s weight and height. And remember, car seats are only meant for the car. Do not bring your baby inside with their carseat to nap. The position, particularly when placed on the floor instead of it’s accompanying base, can make it difficult for an infant to breathe properly, putting your infant at risk for suffocation.

Age 2+ to 5+:

After your child has outgrown the rear-facing seat, it’s time to switch to a 5-point harness and top tether forward-facing seat. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ instructions for installation in your vehicle. Just like the rear-facing seat, this should be used for as long as possible, with the height and weight limits of the seat in mind.

Age 5+ to 8+:

Moving to a booster seat is a big step, and it shouldn’t be rushed. Your child or relatives might urge you to abandon the forward-facing seat before you actually should. However, you should listen to the numbers: only move on to the booster once your child reaches the seat’s limits. You also need to make sure your child is capable of sitting on his or her own. Climbing around/out of the booster seat defeats the purpose. An appropriate booster seat will raise your child up so that the seat belt fits him or her more properly.

Installation & Use

● Don’t buy used car seats. Wear and tear or possible recalls can make this unsafe. Additionally, car seats actually DO expire. You can usually find an expiration date somewhere on the base or sides of the seat. This is especially important if you have multiple children and you reuse the seat from child to child. Car seats typically expire within 6 years of manufacturing, but it can range from 4 to 12 years.

● Remember that regardless of a child’s age, whatever seat they’re currently using should be in the back. Even children under 13 who have outgrown all type car seats should still ride in the back.

● Check the manuals for your vehicle and your car seats to make sure that both are compatible and will install properly. ● Ultimately, you want the car seat to be a snug fit to the actual seat of the car. You can install a car seat using either the LATCH or seat belt options. The LATCH (which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children) option allows the car seat to attach to the lower anchors of a car. (Front-facing seats should use the top tether.) Both LATCH and the seat belt methods are safe, but don’t use both at once.

● Speaking of getting that snug fit, your car seat shouldn’t move more than an inch side-to-side or front-to-back when pulled at the belt path.

● 5-point harnesses in forward-facing seats have adjustable shoulder straps; kids grow fast, so make sure to regularly check and make sure the straps fit them properly. A snug but comfortable fit is best.

● When it’s colder outside, keep in mind that a bulky coat can interfere with how snugly your child fits into his or her car seat. Make sure to account for that extra layer when adjusting the harnesses.

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