Babies and Car Safety: 5 Things to Know
Car seats are crucial for protecting your child in the event of an accident. Yet 73 percent of car seats aren't installed correctly. To help keep your baby safe in the car, here are five helpful things to know.
Install in the Back Seat: The safest place for your baby is in the back seat of your vehicle. When the car seat is in the front and there's an accident, the airbags could activate and seriously injure your child. If you only need to use one car seat, install it in the center of the back seat. This also minimizes injuries from the door if you're hit on the side. If you only have one row of seats, make sure you turn off the passenger air bags.
- Know the History: You should only buy a used car seat if you know the history of the car seat, which ideally means from friends or family and not a stranger on the internet or at a thrift store. If the car seat has ever been in a crash it needs to be replaced immediately. Also, all car seats have expiration dates, which is typically six years. You can find a label on the side of the car seat that lists the expiration date and the height and weight restrictions.
- Keep Babies Rear-Facing: Your baby should stay in a rear-facing car seat until he or she is at least 2 years old and 35 pounds or reaches the height and weight limit set by your car seat manufacturer. Rear-facing car seats offer the best protection for the head, neck, and spine in the event of a collision. When your child is old enough to use a forward-facing car seat, he or she should still ride in the back seat. Once your child is between 40 and 80 pounds you can switch to a booster seat and use the seat belt.
- Make Sure the Harness Is Snug: The harness straps on the car seat should be snug against your baby. Therefore, you should never strap your baby in while he or she is wearing a bulky jacket or sweater. If it's cold outside, place a warm blanket over your baby once he or she is properly strapped into the car seat. Additionally, the straps should lie flat without twisting or sagging, and the chest clip needs to fit at armpit level.
- Never Use as a Replacement Crib: As tempting as it is to leave your baby in his or her car seat when he or she is sleeping soundly, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in his or her crib. One study showed that sitting upright in a car seat could compress your baby's chest and lead to lower oxygen levels. Long periods of sitting in a car seat can also worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease and create a flat spot on your baby's head.
Keep your baby secure, safe, and comfortable on every trip in the car by reviewing and implementing the previous safety tips.