Buckle Up for Life, a national injury prevention program, offers these tips for car seat safety this holiday season:
- Use the “Inch and Pinch” Test. After you’ve buckled your child in, pinch the car seat strap near their shoulders. If you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug. Then grab the car seat at the bottom where it is attached to the car and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it.
- Secure Holiday “Extras” in the Car. Make sure that all gifts, luggage and other holiday “extras” are tightly secured in your vehicle. These objects could become projectiles in the event of a crash.
- Ensure Your Child’s Seat Faces the Correct Way. Some parents and caregivers may wonder when it’s safe to turn the car seat around to face forward. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the seat.
- Remove Your Child’s Winter Coat. Before securing your child in their seat, remove their winter coat. A coat can prevent the harness from fitting correctly. It also could compress in a crash, compromising the seat’s ability to protect your child.
- Don’t Rent a Car Seat. Traveling by plane? If you are renting a car, use your own car seat. When you rent a seat you don’t know important facts about its history that could affect its ability to protect your child (e.g., expiration date, crash history, etc.) The good news is that many airlines allow you to check your car seat for free.
A few years ago, we created our own car seat safety guide that included not just children in car seats but also children in booster seats as well as when kids could go without boosters and when they could enter the front seat domain.
Find it here or find our cheat sheet below.
Keep the youngest in the middle of the car and have the right kind of car seat for each passenger based on age and weight.
1. A teenager or an adult can ride in the front seat with a seat belt on. The safest place is still the back seat.
2. An infant must be in a rear-facing car seat.
3. Adult drivers must wear seat belts.
4. Children younger than age 2 should be in rear-facing car seats.
5. A 4- to 7-year-old should sit in a high-back booster seat until he reaches the upper weight and/or height limit for the seat.
6. A 2- to 4-year-old should ride in a forward-facing car seat until he reaches the upper weight and/or height limit for the seat.
7. An 8- to 12-year-old less than 4 feet 9 inches can be in a high-back booster or a low-back booster used with the car’s adjustable head rest until he reaches the upper weight and/or height of the seat.
Sources: Dell Children’s Medical Center, Safe Kids Austin, American Academy of Pediatrics