The latest car seat guidelines to keep your grandchild safe in the car
Do you remember baby car seats from the 1970’s? They weren’t so much designed to keep children safe as to keep them from roaming around the car. By the eighties, safety became the main focus, and by 1986 they were mandatory in all fifty US states and Australia. Canada and the UK did not have universal car seat laws until 2006/7!
Car seats, and the advice about the best way to use them, have definitely evolved since our children were young. For example, it is now recommended that babies be placed in a rear-facing car seat for the first two to four years of life. This provides maximum protection for the head, neck and spine during the years that their developing bodies are the most vulnerable to injury.
If you will ever be driving your grandchild, it’s important to know what the latest recommendations are. Here are some tips that will get you started on the path to safety.
If you want to buy a car seat for your own car, there are safe options available at all price points. Make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind for your grandchild’s age and size. Also, not all seats fit safely in all vehicles, so try to test a seat out before you buy it.
Never borrow or buy a used car seat unless you know its history. It may be unsafe if it’s old or has been in an accident. Always check Recalls.gov when buying or borrowing car seats, and check the seat itself for the expiration date. (Did you know they have expiration dates? As they age, parts can become brittle or worn, making them less effective. If you can’t find the date on the car seat, you can call the manufacturer.)
A frightening 59% of car seats are not installed correctly. Proper installation can mean the difference between life and death in an accident. Make sure you read and follow both your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Proper installation is crucial to protecting your grandbaby.
Pay special attention to these four common mistakes:
Install the seat when you are unhurried—not when you first need to get your grandbaby somewhere. It’s not unusual for it to take 30-45 minutes to properly install a new car seat for the first time. Make the effort to search for a YouTube video or guide for your specific seat and car. Websites like The Car Seat Lady and Car Seats for the Littles are great resources. When properly installed, the car seat should move no more than one inch from side to side.
If possible, get a car seat inspection from a certified technician. Find one at nhtsa.gov.
When your grandchild is in the seat, make sure the chest clip is properly aligned: about even with your grandchild’s armpits. If it’s too low, they can be ejected in a crash; too high, and a neck injury can occur. The harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders in a forward-facing seat and at or below the shoulders in a rear-facing seat. The harness should be tight enough so that you can’t pinch the strap together at all. Don’t buckle the straps over bulky clothing, coats or blankets.
Don’t let your grandchild eat or drink while they are in their car seat, and avoid toys that could cause an injury if they were to go flying in a crash.
And finally, use the seat every single time. No exceptions.
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