Car Seat Safety Tips You Need to Know
As a parent, keeping your child safe is one of your top priorities. But one of the most dangerous activities that a child does in any given day is travel in a car. In fact, auto crashes are one of the leading causes of death for children in the United States, according to the CDC. However, securely buckling your child in the correct child restraint can reduce serious and fatal injuries by up to 80% if you are in a crash.
At Virginia Tire & Auto, we have certified car seat technicians that check every box when it comes to your child’s safety. Certified through Safe Kids Worldwide, our Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technicians provide hands-on assistance and free car seat safety checks to parents with young children.
We talked to Peter Jaworski, one of our CPS Technicians, to learn all about car seat safety. Here’s what he had to say:
9 Car Seat Safety Tips
1. Always buckle up.
This should go without saying, but you should always make sure you, your child and any other passengers are always buckled up. Any unrestrained person or object becomes a dangerous projectile in a crash. Plus, buckling up sets a great example for your child to follow and it will help keep you safe too.
2. Make sure your child is in the back seat.
No infant or child should ride in the front seat until they are about 13 years old. Keeping them in the back seat protects them from the active airbags, which are designed for adults, not children. If you place a car seat in the front seat and the airbag inflates, it could cause severe injuries to your child’s head, neck and torso.
3. Place the car seat in the safest place: the center seat.
If possible, placing the car seat in a rear center seat is the safest option. One study suggests that the center seat is 43% safer than a side seat for children. This is because in the center seat the child cannot take any direct impact if the car is hit from the side, minimizing the risk of injury during a car crash. However, not all vehicles are designed for a car seat to be in the middle, so check your car’s owner’s manual before installing the seat.
4. Ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible.
As of July 2019, Virginia law requires children to stay in a rear-facing car seat until they turn two or “reach the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing safety seat as prescribed by the manufacturer of the safety seat.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in a rear-facing position as long as the car seat limits allow, no matter their age.
5. Know when it’s time to adjust your child’s seat or change car seats.
Kids grow quickly, so it’s important to know when to adjust their seat. All car seats have labels that list the height and weight limits for that specific seat. As your child grows, you will need to make adjustments like changing the seat’s angle, raising the harness straps, or moving it from rear-facing to forward-facing. And, eventually, your child will outgrow the seat and need a bigger one! Car seats do have an expiration date, so make sure you’re not using an expired seat.
6. Keep those straps snug.
As you buckle your children into their car seats, remember that the straps should be a little tight around their bodies and the chest clip should be at armpit-level. There should be little to no slack left after you tighten the belts. You can test this by seeing if you can pinch the strap over on itself near the child’s collarbone. If it can pinch, it isn’t quite tight enough.
7. Remove all bulk before buckling.
Staying warm is important during colder months, but unbundling before strapping your child in will help keep him/her safe in the car. When a child is wrapped up in bulky coats and layers, the straps may seem like they are properly tightened. But if you were to take the layers off and leave the straps at the same tightness, they would be far too loose for your child to ride safely.
8. Register your car seat with the manufacturer.
Stay up to date on any important information about your car seat by registering it with the car seat manufacturer. If the car seat is recalled, the only way the manufacturer can reach you is if you are registered.
9. Have a trained technician install your car seat.
A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that around 46% of car seats and booster seats are used incorrectly. Car seats are more challenging than most parents realize, so making an appointment to meet a trained technician can be informative and helpful, especially for new parents.
Virginia Tire & Auto’s Free Car Seat Clinics
At Virginia Tire & Auto, we’re committed to keeping kids safe in cars. We are proud sponsors of both Saving Loudoun’s Littles and Saving Prince William’s Littles. These programs provide car seat checks to Loudoun County and Prince William County communities.
We also offer our own free monthly car seat safety checks with the help of our Child Passenger Safety Technicians! Make an appointment at our next car seat check to let our technicians make sure your children’s car seats are correctly installed. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the latest car seat safety information. Schedule an appointment at an upcoming check here!