Every time you buckle your child into a car seat, a life or death situation is created. The steps you take to buckle the seat safely and the choices you make while driving influence the well-being of your youngster. Sadly, road injuries top the list of preventable injuries and deaths that impact children in the United States. Working together, parents, lawmakers, and car seat manufacturers, such as Chicco, have a common goal of improving the safety of children in vehicles.
In addition to replacing your child's seat when it hits its expiration date, there are some things you can do immediately to protect your younger riders:
Learn how understanding car seats and their laws can keep your little one safe and find out where to get specific information for your state.
Get to know some of the most common mistakes so you can avoid them.
Read through car seat tips from the experts and put them into practice the next time you buckle your child in the vehicle.
Expiration Dates and State Requirements
Each state and territory has its own child safety seat requirements. These generally involve where in the care the child sits, and which type of seat is appropriate. For example, there are many laws that require children to sit in the rear seat of the vehicle until that child has reached a certain age, height, weight, or combination of the three. Parents may be ticketed for non-compliance to child passenger safety laws and could receive a hefty monetary fine or get a driver's license points penalty.
The Value of Expiration Dates
Why do car seats expire? It's tempting to think you can squeeze another year or two out of that old seat, but are those financial savings really worth the risk to your child? There are several reasons for those car seat expiration dates:
Car seat technology continues to advance as manufacturers learn more about the physical results of collisions.
The strength of car seat materials breaks down over time, and impact protection deteriorates.
Extreme temperatures and stress from heavy use and accidents cause wear and tear on the materials and fabrics of the seat.
Replacement parts aren't available any more.
How can you get the specific information you need? The Chicco website offers answers to the most commonly asked questions. Additionally, the expiration date should be listed on a label directly on the seat and base. If you can't find the label, you could take the seat to your local fire station for a safety inspection. You'll also get some tips on how to position the seat and buckle your child in safely. Otherwise, throw out the old seat (don't sell it) and buy a new one.
Look Up State Regulations
There are plenty of sites online providing state-by-state regulations for car seats. Make sure you know the relevant requirements for your state. Before you travel to another area, make sure you know what their laws are. You don't want to put a damper on your vacation by getting a ticket in California for letting your two-year-old ride in a front-facing seat.
State Compliance and Best Practices
As you work to keep your child safe in the car, be aware that compliance with state regulations does not ensure that you're following best practices. For example, state regulations usually don't address car seat expiration. A Chicco car seat has a lifespan of six to eight years, depending on the model. After the Chicco car seat expiration date passes, you should replace the chair even if there's no visible damage. Likewise, if it has been involved in an accident, it should be replaced immediately. Many parents appreciate the chance to save money by purchasing used car seats. However, this means the parents don't have the history of the chair and could be putting their child's safety at risk.
Avoid Common Car Seat Mistakes
In addition to overlooking expiration dates, there are some common mistakes that even experienced, law-abiding parents make when buckling their little ones into the car. In fact, the Safe Kids Worldwide global road safety initiative reports that three out of four car seats aren't installed or used correctly. That's a lot of kids at risk.
1. Buying the Wrong Car Seat for the Child
Whether you're buying a new or used seat, make sure you have the correct chair for the height, weight, and age of your child. An infant needs head support, even if he or she satisfies the weight requirement for the next level seat. Do your homework before making a purchase. Fortunately, there are several seats available that can grow with your child. With careful research and good planning, you can probably stick to just one or two seats while your young passenger grows.
2. Locating the Seat in the Front of the Vehicle
Although car seats and air bags are both designed to protect passengers in an automobile, the combination can be deadly. Car seats should always be in the back of your car, away from active air bags. Do you have side bags in the back of your vehicle? In trucks and other vehicles with a single row of seats, contact the car manufacturer about deactivating the air bags. Finally, the car seat should be put in the center seat to prevent injuries during a crash.
3. Installing the Seat Incorrectly
The use of a car seat base has simplified installation, but parents still need to be aware of the positioning of their seat. In a rear-facing position, for example, the right angle is important to ensure that babies' heads don't fall forward. Read the manufacturer's instructions before installing the seat and take advantage of the angle indicator or adjuster that should be located on the side of the seat.
4. Buckling the Child Incorrectly
There are some basic rules for keeping your child securely fastened, such as positioning the chest clip evenly with your child's armpits and making sure the straps lie flat on your child without any slack. The best way to be sure you're fastening your little one into the seat correctly is to visit your local fire station or police office. Contact these officials beforehand to be sure someone will be on hand to help you.
Additionally, you should remove your child's heavy coats, outwear, and blankets to ensure a snug fit. If it's cold, buckle the child before going outside and then bundle your little one with blankets once the straps and belts are in their correct positions.
5. Transitioning Too Soon
Whether you're adjusting the seat as your infant gets bigger or transitioning a toddler into a booster seat, there are guidelines through your state's laws and the car seat manufacturer. Don't rush your child from one seat to another. One of the main goals of each seat is to correctly position the straps to hold your child securely without putting undue pressure on the developing body. If you move your child up too soon, the belts may put pressure on vital organs or cause injuries during an accident.
Car Seat Safety Tips From the Experts
1. Use NHTSA Car Seat Recommendations
There are many resources available to help you ensure the safety of your child. Take advantage of the information you can find online through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concerning the different types of car seats, child age and size requirements, and ease-of-use ratings. Don't forget to visit the police department or fire station for help installing the seat and positioning your child correctly.
2. Register Your Car Seat
Parents can stay up-to-date with new information is obtained through crash tests and collision research by registering their children's car seats. This can be done through the NHTSA website and will give you access to recalls and safety notices. There may have been a card included with the purchase of the car seat. If so, fill that out and send it in.
3. Don't Leave Your Child in the Car Seat All Day
Leaving your baby in the car seat for a long period of time outside of the car can lead to a dangerous situation. When the baby's head falls forward, he or she may have a hard time breathing. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the vibrations of a moving car are enough to prevent suffocation, but when you take the baby out of the car, move her or him to a firm sleeping surface.
4. Don't Leave Your Child Alone in the Car
The car seat may be a convenient place to keep your little one contained, but don't give in to the temptation to leave the baby there while you run errands. Within just a few minutes, the temperature inside your car can raise by 20 degrees.
5. Store Loose Items in the Trunk
Gather together toys, bottles, and other loose items in the car and keep them in the trunk or another container. Loose items could become projectiles during accidents or abrupt stops. Car tools, such as window shades and scrapers should also be secured to prevent injuries.
No one wants to see little ones harmed while riding in a vehicle. Pay attention to the laws and safety regulations concerning car seats to be sure your children are safe in the car. Use available resources and tips from experts to improve the safety of your family today.