March 3, 2014

baby girl with his teddy bear smile in carDid you recently hear about the recall of Graco brand car seats? Since it affects so many families, we thought it would be a good time to share some helpful tips about car seat safety.

But first, we want to encourage you to stay up to date on the latest recalls and to register your child’s car or booster seat by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website.

Car seat safety begins with choosing the right seat. However, shopping for a car seat is almost as confusing as shopping for a new car. To make the process easier, the NHTSA shares these tips.

  • Choose the best fit for your child. Know your child’s height and weight. This information will help you determine the type of seat your child needs.
  • Choose the best fit for your car. For most car seats, 80 percent of the base should be in contact with the vehicle seat. Check your vehicle’s manual for specific recommendations.
  • Use the seat consistently and accurately. The No. 1 thing you can do is securely fasten your child into her car seat or booster seat every time you get in the car.

Once you have purchased the right seat, it’s time for installation. Before you begin, determine where your vehicle’s airbags are located and review your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for correct car seat placement.

For more help, check the car seat manufacturer’s website for installation videos and tips. And remember, the safest place for a child is in the backseat.

After installation, the next step is to ensure your child is securely fastened in her seat. Not safely securing a child is the No. 1 mistake many parents make. Use these tips to keep your child safe:

  • Test the fit. If you can pinch the shoulder straps between your fingers while they lie flat on your child’s shoulders, they are too loose and need to be tightened.
  • Keep the chest clip secured at armpit level.
  • Check the harness placement. If a child is rear-facing, the harness should be at or below the shoulder. In a forward-facing position, the harness should be at or above the shoulder.
  • Remove any bulky outerwear – such as coats – before putting your child into her car seat.
  • Contact a local resource for help. If your child needs special positioning accommodations, contact a physical or occupational therapist or local SafeKids technician for recommendations.

We also want to remind you to keep your child’s car seat properly maintained.

Since car seats expire, you should not hold on to them for too long. You should buy a new car seat six years after the manufactured date, unless the manufacturer indicates otherwise.

Also, never accept secondhand car seats if the history is unknown. The NHTSA also recommends disposing of and replacing a car seat after a moderate-to-severe vehicle crash.

Lastly, toys, mirrors, window shades and other objects can become projectiles or cause the car seat to malfunction during an accident. Check with the manufacturer or look in the manual to see what products are approved for your seat.

For more information about car seat safety, visit the NHTSA website.

~ Kesli Coffelt, Occupational Therapist
Lubbock, Texas