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There’s no better way to spend time with your family than by planning a road trip and taking to the open road! But if you’re traveling with children, car seat safety should be the first thing on your mind. We’ve gathered some of the best car seat tips and tricks for you to make it easier to ensure that all of your passengers arrive safely, no matter how small they are.
Everyone knows how important it is to wear a seatbelt when you’re in a car, but in spite of this information, in 2007-2009, studies found that only about 3% of children small enough to require a car seat were actually properly restrained. Just 3%!
In addition, three-quarters of all car seats and other restraints are not installed correctly, leaving their passengers at risk for injury or death in the event of an accident.
Requirements Are Changing
As new studies are conducted and new statistics collected, the requirements for car seat safety have changed. As of right now, these are the requirements that you need to keep in mind when setting up the seating arrangements for your little ones.
- Two and Under: Children up to the age of two should be kept in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. AAP recommends the minimum age of two, or until the child reaches the maximum weight limit of their rear-facing car seat.
- Toddlers/Preschoolers: Once they outgrow their rear-facing car seat, children should be seated in a front-facing car seat with a harness. AAP recommends utilizing the harnessed car seat until the child outgrows the weight limit of the seat.
- School Age: Once they’ve outgrown their car seats, children should be seated in a booster seat that properly positions the shoulder and lap belts. Booster seats should be used until the child is at least 4’ 9” and at least 80 lbs.
- Other: After they’ve reached the 4’ 9”/80-lb. cutoff, they’re tall enough to use a regular vehicle seatbelt without the aid of any other device. Children under the age of 13 should still always sit in the back seat of the car.
Tips and Tricks
Now that you have an idea of the requirements needed for a car seat, the trick is making sure it’s installed correctly. You know how to install a car seat, right? If the answer is no, don’t worry! We’re here to help.
Step 1: Read the Manual
If there are any special techniques that you need to employ to install your particular model of car seat, the best place to find them is in the seat’s manual.
Side note: Check for the seat’s expiration date. Yes, car seats do expire! This isn’t as important if you’re buying a new car seat, but if you buy a used seat, or if you’ve got a friend who’s offering you a free car seat or something like that, check the expiration date before you say yes.
Step 2: LATCH or Seatbelt?
The tether (or LATCH) system is the safest way to install your car seat, and it’s included in all cars newer than model year 2002. Your car seat will come equipped with straps and clips that can be used for this system.
While using the seatbelt does work, the LATCH system is a safer option. If you drive an older car, consider calling your dealership to see if they offer a LATCH retrofit kit.
Step 3: Make Sure Your Seatbelts Lock
In older cars, your seatbelts might not lock unless you’re slamming on the brakes. If they don’t lock automatically, or when fully extended, install a locking clip. Your car should have come with one, but if it’s gotten lost over the years, you can usually find them at children’s stores or directly from your car manufacturer.
Step 4: Ask for Help!
We know that car seats are tricky, but installing one correctly could prevent serious injury or death, so it’s vitally important. If you’re tripping over the manual or having trouble installing it, ask for help! Many public service places (i.e. Health Departments, Fire Departments, Police Stations, etc.) are more than happy to teach you how to properly install your car seat!
Prioritize Car Seat Safety
There’s nothing more important than the safety of your children, and keeping them safe in a car requires the proper installation of their car seat or other restraint devices. Hopefully these tips and tricks helped, but if you’ve still got questions or concerns, refer back to step 4 here: Ask for help! A few minutes of your time can make all the difference. Your biggest problem should be keeping crumbs out of your car, not worrying about your child’s safety on the road.