We love a fun family adventure, but if you’re planning a road trip with your baby or toddler, car seat safety is a topic you should take seriously.
Why? Because car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13?
LinnieLou interviewed parenting expert Sharon Mazel to get her take on car seat safety–including proper car seat installation and how to help children who fight their seats.
And get this: Sharon spent more than 20 years as co-writer of the “What To Expect” book series and is a contributing writer and editor for WhatToExpect.com. She knows her stuff!
Keep reading to learn more about car seat safety from one of the country’s leading parenting experts.
Car Seat Safety Basics
What is the most important thing you should keep in mind when it comes to car safety/car seat safety?
Sharon said you should:
- Find the right car seat
- Install the car seat properly
Make sure your child is strapped in the seat correctly
“Not only is that safest for your child, but it’s the law,” she said.
And it’s not just about buying the right seat.
“It’s also about ensuring that you use the right car seat for your child’s age and size,” Sharon said. “As an example, if your baby is under 2-years-old, he or she should be in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat.”
This is important, because parents are often eager to switch their child to a forward facing seat.
“But it’s safest for infants to stay rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat. Most babies don’t meet those thresholds until at least age 2,” she said.
Car Seat Installation
Car seat installation can be a challenge, and parents are often confused by the LATCH system and seat belts.
“Remember to choose either the LATCH or seat belt - don’t use both!” Sharon said.
Sharon also advised parents take time to read their car seat manuals and/or get the seat fit-checked by a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician; local organizations often have free checkup events and inspection centers.
(Safe Kids Worldwide has a listing of events by state.)
“Sometimes parents will strap their kids into the car seat incorrectly, or the car seat will wobble from side to side–it should be snug,” she said.
How can parents ensure their kids are safe in their seats?
- The harness should fit your baby according to the manuel (keep in mind that harness positions are different depending on whether the seat is forward or rear-facing)
- Straps should be flat and untwisted
- Straps should be tight enough that your baby doesn’t slide around in the seat
Nothing bulky (such as snowsuits or blankets) should be between your baby and the straps
“A great tip when you’re installing a rear-facing car seat is to move the front vehicle seat up as far as possible so you have room to maneuver in the back seat when you’re doing the install,” Sharon said.
Sharon also suggested you recline the seat you’re installing the car seat on to get a tight fit, but remember to make the seat upright again when you’re done installing the car seat.
Purchasing a Car Seat
Look for a car seat that meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to ensure it meets all current safety requirements (something that an older, borrowed car seat may not have).
“That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on a car seat,” she said. “If it’s safe under these standards, then there’s no need for all the bells and whistles if your budget doesn’t allow for it.”
Kids and Car Seats
We asked Sharon to offer advice to parents whose babies and/or toddlers hate their car seats.
“First, make sure the car seat is comfortable and that your baby or toddler isn’t being pinched by something too tight,” she said.
She then suggested you distract your little one when strapping him into his seat by singing, talking about something fun, or bringing a special toy that he looks forward to playing with.
“If your tot arches his back when you’re trying to strap him in, tickle or kiss that cute little belly. It will prevent back arching,” she said.
If all else fails, empathize, but be firm.
“Say, ‘I know you don’t want to be strapped in, but this is the only way we can drive to the park to play–or go to the store–or get to a playdate,’” she said.
The most important thing?
“Be sure to stay calm yourself and not resort to yelling, which will only elevate the tension,” she said.
To Sum It Up
Since car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1-13, car seat safety is a topic parents should take seriously.
Parenting expert Sharon Mazel offered these tips:
- Read the manuals before installing the car seat and/or get the seat fit-checked.
- Ensure you use the right car seat for your child’s age and size.
- Move the front vehicle seat up as far as possible so you have room to maneuver in the back seat when you install the seat.
- Look for a car seat that meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a car seat. If it’s safe under the FMVS standards, then there’s no need for all the bells and whistles.
We hope you found these car seat safety tips helpful! Be sure to join the conversation on our Instagram!And you can follow Sharon on Instagram for more parenting tips and tricks.