cps-stackingrings-8x11-nationalNow that the school year and fall extracurricular activities are underway, many more of us are taking to the roads to drive our kids from place to place. Studies show seven out of 10 children ride in car seats that have not been installed correctly, or are in the wrong car seats for their age and size. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the vast majority of parents honestly believe their child seats are installed correctly, which means it’s entirely possible that you or I might be among them!

In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week (September 18th – 24th), take the time to make sure your kids are in the correct car seat for their age and size, and that each seat is installed properly in every car they ride in (yes, even that car seat kept in the grandparents’ car that’s only used on rare occasions!)

What Size Car Seat Should I Be Using?

First, familiarize yourself with the four types of car seats that are available:

  • Rear Facing. This is typically your infant car seat, but there are also convertible models and all-in-one varieties that can be used safely both rear and forward facing. Rear facing car seats are the best seats for your young child to use, as it has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to their fragile neck and spinal cord. Both the AAP and NHTSA recommend that children face backward until they outgrow their car seat, which means most children should remain rear-facing until they’re at least 2 or 3 years old.
  • Forward Facing. These car seats are generally the next step up from rear facing; they also have a harness and a tether that limits your child’s forward movement in a crash. Again, there are a few different varieties – rear facing seats that can also be used as forward facing seats, combination seats that become a forward-facing booster seat, and all-in-one models.
  • Booster Seat. These are designed to boost the child’s height so the car’s seat belt fits properly. Choose from a booster seat with a high back (a booster seat that also provides head and neck support. This is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs), backless booster seats, a combination seat, or an all-in-one seat.
  • Seat Belt. Seat belts should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain your child safely in a crash. It should NOT rest on the stomach area or across the neck or face. For your child to properly fit in a seat belt, he or she must: be tall enough to sit without slouching, be able to keep his or her back against the vehicle seat, 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 remember, always check your child’s belt fit in every vehicle. A booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and not in others. If the seat belt does not fit properly yet, the child should continue to use a booster seat.
  • It’s important to note as well that children under 12 should remain in the back seat.

The NHTSA’s Parents Central website has a wealth of information about car seat safety, and includes an awesome chart that easily illustrates the right car seat for every age and size.  The website also features a super easy car seat look up tool to help you select the appropriate make and model based on your child’s age, height and weight.

A few words about buying a used car seat – make sure the seat you’re buying follows these guidelines:

  • The seat has never been involved in a moderate to severe crash.
  • The seat has labels stating date of manufacture and model number. You need this information to find out if there is a recall on the car seat or if the seat is too old. Most car seats expire 5 – 7 years after the date of manufacture (but vary from model to model).
  • The seat has no recalls. If you do find a recall on the car seat, you should contact the manufacturer as some problems can be fixed.
  • The seat has all its parts. If the seat is missing a part, contact the manufacturer as some parts can be ordered.
  • The seat has its instruction book. You can also order the instruction manual from the manufacturer.

How Do I Know if My Car Seat is Installed Properly?

There are car seat checks throughout the city that can help verify that you’ve installed your seats correctly. Additionally, there is a FREE car seat check at the Britax Headquarters in Fort Mill happening Friday, September 23rd from 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM. 

Keep your kiddos safe this year while you play chauffeur this year and get those car seats checked!