Many parents struggle to research and use the right type of car seat, and often just purchase whatever model is on sale, or whichever has the nicest pattern or color … a potentially deadly mistake. Did you know car crashes are the leading cause of death for Canadian children 1 to 14 years old? It’s not surprising when you consider that an estimated 75% of children too small for seat belts are incorrectly restrained in car safety seats … 75% is far too many!
Child safety seats can be life saving, but when only if they’re used properly.
Follow these suggestions to avoid some of the most common car seat mistakes parents make:
1) It seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning – DON’T USE A DEFECTIVE CAR SEAT! That “like new” garage sale find may have seemed like a good deal, but you don’t know its history. Even if it looks brand new, don’t buy a used product! It could be ten years old, have hidden cracks in the plastic from a previous accident, or maybe even be recalled by the manufacturer.
2) Don’t rush to “upgrade” to the forward-facing model until it’s time. If your child still fits comfortably in the rear-facing seat, keep using it … there are models out there that are made for children up to 20 kg (45 lbs.)! The instruction manual that came with the car seat should provide exact height and weight measurements, and it’s important to follow the manufacturer recommendations.
3) Although specific guidelines may vary with each car seat brand and style, there are some basic best practices you should follow:
- • Infant car seats are designed for children who weigh less than 10 kg (22 lbs.) and who are no more than 66 cm (26 in) tall.
- • Child seats are for children between 10 and 30 kg (22 – 5 lbs.) in weight, and between 66 and 102 cm (26 – 40 in) in height.
- • Booster seats are not designed for small children! Be sure that your child weighs more than 18 kg (40 lbs.) before transitioning them to a booster seat.
4) No matter which product is right for your kids, it’s extremely important to install and use it correctly:
- • The seat should not move more than 1 inch, so make sure it’s installed tightly! Even if your vehicle comes with a built in LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), buckle in the seat – it could save your child’s life!
- • Be sure to secure the harness straps properly. They should be snug … even if your child fights to keep them loose. For rear-facing car seats, use the two lower slots and strap the harness slightly at or below the shoulders. For forward-facing seats, use the top slop and strap tightly at or above the shoulders.
- • Finally, position the chest strap correctly. For rear-facing seats, it should be at roughly armpit level. And for the forward-facing seats designed for larger/older children, it should be positioned mid-chest.
*Image courtesy of Shutterstock