The Most Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them
Whether your little one is still in a rear-facing infant seat, has graduated to facing forward or to a booster, or has grown out of a car seat entirely, it is probably second nature to you to make sure they are safely buckled in before you hit the road together. The lifesaving value of seatbelts is indisputable—and not just for kids, but for adults as well. Beyond this well-known fact, there are several other important things parents, and anyone who is regularly driving your young children around, like a grandparent or babysitter, should know about making the ride in a car seat safer. Below, we discuss three of the most common car seat mistakes we’ve researched and how the experts recommend you can avoid making them.
#1 Buckling up your child when they are too bundled up.
Getting in and out of a car with an infant or toddler is already a lot of work, so removing your child’s bulky outerwear before strapping them into their car seat may seem like an extra hassle. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many children end up not being buckled into their car seat tightly enough because the harness has been fastened over a bulky jacket or other thick layer of clothing. Instead, the CDC recommends dressing your child in several thin layers to ensure that their car seat’s harness straps can be buckled and appropriately tightened. Then, you can put coats or blankets over your child, as well as the buckle and harness, so they still feel warm and cozy while in your vehicle. Yes, getting your child in and out of their outerwear before and after each drive might take a little bit more time. But it is an important safety measure that can help ensure your child is sitting securely in the car seat’s protective shell.
#2 Using a hand-me-down car seat that has expired.
Children are expensive! So, it’s fantastic if you can save money on clothes, shoes, toys, baby gear, and more by passing them from one sibling to another or getting them at bargain prices at a yard sale or a local children’s store that sells gently used items. However, before you use these same tactics to save money on a car seat, it’s essential to do some research. You may not know this, but car seats are considered safe for use only for a defined period, primarily because vehicles, as well as safety regulations and technology, are constantly changing. According to car seat manufacturers like Graco, the useful life of a car seat is typically seven to 10 years. If you have two children who are very close in age, you may not have to invest in a brand-new seat for the younger one. However, you should still always double-check both the car seat’s manufacture date and its useful life, which are generally marked on the seat or in the manufacturer’s manual. You should also consider how much wear and tear there is on the seat before handing it down to a younger child. Their older sibling has probably spent hundreds of hours sitting, sleeping, playing, and making messes in this car seat. If the seat, its padding, and hardware look like they have taken a beating, experts suggest it’s much safer to purchase a seat that’s in good condition. Finally, if the car seat is coming from outside of your immediate family, you really cannot be sure of the complete history behind the seat, including whether it has ever been involved in an accident. Although it may not be the most economical choice, car seat engineers recommend purchasing a new car seat as the safest route because doing so will give you the assurance that the seat has up-to-date technology and a clean history.
#3 Transitioning your child out of a car seat too soon.
It is extremely difficult not to succumb to the demands of a child who wants out of their rear-facing car seat and into more big-kid–style seats. However, it is critical to not give in too soon. So, aside from their whining, how will you know when it’s the right time to consider moving your child from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing one, a booster, or just the backseat? There are some typical weight and height standards that may help guide your decision and make it easier to plan ahead for the next seat your child will require. For example, according to the Cleveland Clinic, since rear-facing-only seats generally accommodate children who are 26 to 36 inches tall and who weigh between 22 and 35 pounds, most children should be able to safely stay in these types of seats until at least the age of 2. If you have a convertible car seat (one that goes from rear-facing to front-facing), it probably has higher height and weight limits, as these seats are designed to grow with your child. With any seat, physicians recommend that you try to reach the maximize size allowed by the manufacturer before transitioning your child to a new one. Because there are many factors that go into deciding when your child is physically and developmentally ready to transition out of their car seat and since transitioning a child too soon can make them much more vulnerable to injury if a collision occurs, your pediatrician should always be consulted before you make such an important decision.
Bearingstar knows how important it is to you to keep your family safe on the road and beyond.
That’s why we are so passionate about supporting you with information that can help you better protect your family, whether you’re all out and about in a vehicle, hanging around the house, on vacation, or wherever life might take you together.
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