Everything You Need to Know About Car Seat Safety

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Many parents know the car safety basics, but there’s so much involved in making sure your child is riding safely.

Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having children ride rear-facing until they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer, which is typically past their second birthday.

Why is this? Children’s bodies change as they grow, but when they are younger their heads are much larger. This means other areas of their body, like their spine, can be especially at risk in the event of a collision. Those areas are best protected in a rear-facing seat.

Most children use a car seat until they are about 5-7 years old, and then a booster seat until their pre-teen years.

That’s because when they outgrow their rear-facing seat, they should be switched to a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they outgrow the height or weight, typically around ages 5-7. Once they have outgrown the forward-facing car seat, they should go to a booster seat until they have reached 4’ 9” (typically 8-12 years old).

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Winter coats can be very dangerous for children in a car seat.

From overheating to too much material, winter jackets pose a risk to children in car seats. If a coat is too puffy, the person putting the child in the car seat may think their straps are tight enough; in reality, the straps are only tight around the coat, not the child. This could have serious consequences, including the child slipping in the seat or not being properly restrained in the event of a collision.

Additionally, wearing a heavy coat in the car can impair a child’s ability to regulate body temperature, which is an important function of sensory regulation. In fact, a child’s body temperature can rise five times faster than an adult’s temperature—so you may feel fine, but they may be overheated.

Here are some safe alternate solutions:

  • Look for a special winter coat made for car seats.
  • Put the coat on the child backwards; stick their arms through the sleeves so the coat covers the front of their body over the straps once the child is buckled.
  • Keep blankets in the car.
  • If you have a garage, keep the car inside in winter. If you don’t have a garage, warm your car up outside ahead of time. Never warm your car in the garage.

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There are different car seats made for different needs.

An adapted car seat may be a better fit for children with additional behavioral or physical needs. The adaptations vary, but behavioral-focused seats can have special zippers and harnesses. Seats for children with physical needs may have additional supports and safety measures.

Many car seats are not properly installed—and all have an expiration date.

If installed properly, a car seat should not move more than an inch front to back and side to side. Consult the manual or find an expert if you’re unsure. The seat’s expiration date is important, as it is connected to the latest safety regulations, so stay away from an expired or outdated seat.