Getting Real with Kira Hazledine
I didn’t realize how confusing car seats were until I needed one. I was so uncertain of the rules and regulations, despite reading the manual from cover to cover, and made an appointment with the local state police to meet with their car seat specialist. Yes, that’s a thing that most police departments have! If the police department doesn’t have a specialist, they know someone who does. Look them up. They are an awesome wealth of information and generally nice people that will install your car seat for you and offer the latest safety tips. As a first-time mom, it was exactly what I needed, and I’ll pass on everything I learned to you. Yay.
Read the manual.
No, really. Read the whole thing. There are quite a few things that I wasn’t aware of regarding my specific car seat, such as when to get rid of the infant inserts that were included and how to clean the car seat itself. Yes it’s a dry read. Not exactly what you want to sit down with on a relaxing afternoon, but knowing the ins and outs of your car seat can help guarantee your child’s safety.
Rear-facing vs forward-facing.
The age requirements for how long a child should be rear-facing will depend on your state, but the general recommendation is at least two years of age. Even if your child looks squished, I promise, they’re fine. I called the oh-so-helpful trooper when I thought my daughter’s legs were getting long, and he assured me that a broken hip was easier to fix than a broken neck. Unless your child exceeds both height and weight requirements (which would be an impressive sized two year old) they should stay rear-facing. Your handy car seat manual will offer other specifications for proper installation for both directions.
Proper clip placement.
This is so important, and I’m always horrified when a mom posts a pic of her adorable baby, with loose straps and the chest clip at the belly button. Your child could slip right through those straps in an accident, or be permanently injured by a wrongly placed chest clip. It’s called a chest clip for a reason. Place the clip at armpit level, and tighten the straps so that there is no slack. You don’t want to have it too tight, of course, but you shouldn’t be able to pinch the car seat strap along the shoulder.
Children should be in a booster seat until at least age 8.
This is another stat that varies on state laws, but it’s generally agreed upon that children don’t fit properly in a car until they are between 8 and 12 years of age. Your 12 year old isn’t going to love the car seat, but if they aren’t big enough to meet the requirements of an adult seat belt, tough cookies. A seat belt can’t do it’s job of saving your child’s life if they aren’t at the proper height requirements (about 4 feet, 9 inches).
Don’t buy used.
I can’t stress this enough. Do not buy a used car seat. There are resources to help you find a brand new car seat. Otherwise, you risk putting your child into a car seat that has been in an accident or otherwise misused. It’s just not worth your child’s life.
The car seat is an amazing piece of equipment, and honestly, my daughter looks like she enjoys a pretty comfy ride. If you have any questions about your car seat or installation, contact the manufacturer or your local law enforcement. This information is definitely not the end-all be-all of car seat rules, but it’s a good place to start. Find professional resources and take the steps to keep your children safe in the car.