While specific car seat criteria will vary from state to state, every state in the U.S. requires child safety seats for infants and children in some capacity. And aside from being a great safety precaution intuitively, the benefits of effectively utilizing a car seat for your child’s safety is statistically significant as well.
In fact, according to the CDC’s Fact Sheet on Child Passenger Safety, the use of a car seat reduces the risk for death to infants (aged 1 year and under) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles.
Since the use of a car seat is by far one of the most crucial safety precautions a family with small children can make, we here at Safe Sound Family wanted to learn even more about car seat safety, from car seat selection, installation and proper usage. To do this, we asked 6 parents and car safety experts to answer this question:
"What's your #1 car seat safety tip for new parents to keep kids and infants safe?"
We’ve collected and compiled their expert advice into this comprehensive guide on car seat safety for parents. See what our experts said below:
Grainne Kelly is a Family Travel Expert and Founder of the BubbleBum inflatable car booster seat. Grainne is a former travel agent who revolutionized the child travel industry by inventing BubbleBum: the world’s FIRST inflatable booster seat. Safety is a prime element of a child’s health, and the BubbleBum ensures that kids stay safe and comfortable throughout all car trips.
When it comes to car seat safety tips for new parents, my #1 piece of advice is…
Moving to the next car seat stage should not be viewed like a crawling milestone– be sure not to progress too early or you would be compromising your child’s safety.
A child should be kept in the 5-point harness seat until he reaches the upper weight limit of that seat. Both the age and weight requirements should be considered before moving on to a booster seat, which should be over 40 lbs and over 4 years old.
Jeff Boyer is the Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety for General Motors.
My number #1 tip for parents when it comes to child passenger safety is to…
Make sure your children are secured in car seats or booster seats that are appropriate for their age and size, on every ride.
For example, booster seats are designed to protect children who are too big for a car seat but too small for a seat belt alone. Without a booster seat, seat belts don’t fit children properly until they are at least 57” (4’9”) tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds.For all infants and children to be seated in car or booster seats.
The GM Foundation recently partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide to release a study for 2014 Child Passenger Safety Week. The survey of 1,000 parents of children ages 4 to 10 found that seven in ten parents don’t know the proper height and weight for a child to ride in a vehicle without a booster seat. In fact, in practice, nine out of ten parents move a child from a booster seat to a seat belt too soon! This was surprising of course, but also telling. Most parents just don’t know the safety facts, and we at the GM Foundation, along with Safe Kids, hope to change that.
Haynes M. Studstill
Haynes M. Studstill is a nationally recognized child injury attorney and mother of three children. Her law firm, Studstill Firm, LLP is located in Valdosta, GA, where she also serves as a Board Member on the Lowndes County Chapter of Safe Kids Worldwide.
When it comes to car seat safety for new parents, the most important thing to know is…
That your baby is safest in a rear-facing infant seat in the back seat of your vehicle for as
long as possible.
Most parents cannot wait until the baby reaches its first birthday to turn the car seat around and see that smiling face in the rearview mirror. But safety experts recommend that parents wait as long as possible before turning the child around to face forward – usually until closer to the child’s second birthday.
This is because the child’s muscles and bones are not quite strong enough to withstand the forces of a rear-end collision (one of the most common types of collisions) when they are forward facing until they are closer to that 2nd birthday. A rear-facing seat will provide the most protection for a baby’s head, neck and spine.
Also, while different states have different laws regarding what age children can ride in a vehicle without the aid of a child’s safety seat or a booster seat, it is important to note that these laws are usually the minimum standard. It is always best to continue using a booster seat or a safety seat until the child reaches the maximum height or weight for that seat – even if this goes beyond the age limit set by your state’s laws. Children ages 2 to 5 who use safety belts prematurely are four times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than those in child safety seats or booster seats.
Finally, the rear seat is always the safest place for kids. Children should always ride in the rear seat until they are at least 13 years old. And remember – always buckle up yourself and set a good example for your little ones.
Cherlyn Jenkins is the mom of 4 and 2 year old sons, a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and the designer and manufacturer of the Cozywoggle, a car seat safe coat.
My number one car seat safety tip for new parents is to…
Remove bulky coats and clothing from your child before placing them in the car seat.
Bulky coats affects how tightly the harness fits on the child. During an accident the coat will compress to nothing leaving space between the child and the harness. This puts the child at greater risk of injury and even possibly ejection from their car seat.
A parent may use blankets, ponchos, thin fleece jacket, or a specially designed car seat safe coat, the Cozywoggle to keep their children warm and safe while traveling in cold weather.
Greg Durocher is a father of three (ages 8, 7 and 2.5) and has been a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor for 12 years. He spent 13 years as a career firefighter/paramedic and is now the CEO of Safe Ride 4 Kids.
The number one car seat safety tip I would give parents is to…
Keep their children in a rear-facing child restraint for as long as possible.
Studies show it is five times safer. Although many state’s law still say rear-facing until 1 year old, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old. We as child passenger safety technicians recommend as long as possible which means –depending on the child and the restraint– it could be until about 4 years old.
Dawn Yanek is the Founder and Blogger at Momsanity and the proud mother of a very adorable, very bouncy toddler who keeps her on her toes. In a former life, she was an on-air spokesperson for Life & Style Weekly, a columnist and senior editor for Stuff Magazine, and a contributor for Match.com and ESPN2’s Cold Pizza. She has also logged countless hours in the entertainment industry, appearing in more than 2,500 TV and radio segments, discussing lifestyle, relationships, celebrity news, fashion and pop culture.
My top safety tip for new parents to keep their kids safe in the car?
Make sure that the car-seat buckle is snug, secure and in the right spot.
My biggest surprise when researching car-seat safety for my son was that you needed to take off baby’s winter coat before buckling him in. In the dead of winter, the last thing you want to do is take off your squirmy, cranky, possibly flailing child’s warm coat to strap him into his seat…so you might just let it go. But you can’t. Because if you get into an accident, he won’t be properly secured or properly protected. Yes, you’re freezing. Yes, it’s a pain to get your kid out of a coat before a car ride and then back in one after it, but you have to do it.
Doing this also lets you really see where the chest strap should go: Right across the middle of the chest, in line with your baby’s armpits. If you have it too high or too low, an impact could cause serious damage to your child’s internal organs. Keeping the straps loose doesn’t make your child more comfortable; it just makes him less safe.
As I see it, what’s the point of having a car seat if you’re not using it properly? Just like you can’t be “a little pregnant,” you can’t be “a little safe.” Either you’re safe or you’re not. And when it comes to our kids, safe is the only way to go.