The first step in car seat safety is RIGHT SEAT. What does that mean? There are many types of car seats, and it can be confusing to find the right one. The most important thing to remember is:
Proper fit and installation are far more important to your child’s safety than the price tag or pattern on the car seat.
First, it means that you select the right seat for your child – Check your car seat’s manual to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Also double check the expiration dateon your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
An Infant Car Seat is a rear-facing-only seat designed for newborns (we call them ‘buckets’). They can be very convenient for getting sleeping babies into and out of cars, or for securing the tiniest Ducklings in a shopping cart. Unfortunately, most babies will outgrow their bucket before it is safe for them to ride in a forward-facing seat. Your baby has outgrown her infant car seat when she reaches any ONE of these 3 points:
- The weight limit of the seat, which varies between 20 and 35 pounds – check your car seat manual.
- The height limit of the seat, which also varies – check your car seat manual.
- Your child’s head is within one inch of the top of the car seat. This is one is not common knowledge, but just as important.
When your Duckling outgrows his infant car seat, move him into a rear-facing Convertible Car Seat. Convertible car seats allow you to use one seat for both rear-facing and then forward-facing as your child grows. Read the manual carefully, and remember that children should continue to ride rear-facing as long as possible – until they reach the top height or weight limit before you move them to the forward-facing position.
An All-in-One Car Seat grows with your child from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster seat. Again, read the manual carefully and don’t move up (from rear-facing to forward-facing or from forward-facing with harness to booster seat) until your child meets the height or weight limits of your the seat.
Booster Seats raise and position your Duckling so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt fit properly. A booster seat keeps the lap belt from causing injury to the child’s abdomen and keeps the shoulder belt in place to give the child upper body protection. In the event of a crash, an adult seat belt that does not fit a child properly can actually cause injury rather than prevent it, because it doesn’t fit over the strong parts of the child’s body.
When to move to a seat belt – this is a decision that must be based only on whether your child is able to properly wear an adult seat belt. You wouldn’t let you child smoke because he thinks he’s old enough or because her friends are doing it (I hope). This is no different. My step-daughter, Princess, sat in a booster seat until she was 11 years old. She wasn’t happy about it (and didn’t have to at her mother’s house), but I refused to compromise her safety.
- Be tall enough to sit without slouching;
- Be able to keep his or her back against the vehicle seat; AND
- Be able to keep his or her knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat, AND
- Be able to keep his or her feet flat on the floor, AND
- The lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach; AND
- The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face, AND
Never let children put the shoulder belts under their arm or behind their backs, because it could cause severe injuries in a crash.