Child Safety: The Ins and Outs of Child Passenger Safety
New parents today may be surprised to learn that many of them did not ride in car seats as toddlers, or even as infants. In fact, some parents of current young adults fondly recall driving home from the hospital with their newborns snuggled in their arms.
Of course, in this day and age, that practice is considered extremely risky—not to mention illegal. September 16-22 is Child Passenger Safety Week, providing a great reminder to evaluate your current car seat and ensure your children are safe when they join you on the road. The following tips will help in the process of choosing the right car seat and in using it properly.
How to Select a Car Seat
When shopping for a car seat, consider this advice:
Creative designs and gender specific colors often lure unassuming parents to purchase car seats that may not be equipped with the best safety features. The best policy is to completely ignore a car seat’s appearance and focus instead on the manufacturer’s product literature, independent safety research, and customer reviews.
Opt for Ease
Choosing a car seat that is simple to install is a wise decision. That’s particularly true if you will likely move the car seat from one vehicle to another frequently. Complicated installation instructions can jeopardize your child’s safety, so make sure to review them before making a purchase.
Don’t be Cheap
When selecting all your baby gear for the new arrival, safety-related products, like car seats, are definitely items you don’t want to skimp on. Although you don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive model, consider the purchase of a car seat as an investment in your child’s safety and well-being.
How to Use Car Seats Properly
After you select the right car seat, adhere to these guidelines to ensure that you are using it safely:
Follow Installation Instructions
Whether you are a new parent installing your first car seat or a pro who has done it many times before, carefully following the manufacturer’s installation instructions is imperative. “Winging it” is never acceptable when dealing with a child’s safety. Therefore, the best approach is to go line-by-line with the manufacturer’s instructions and hold on to the manual in case you need to refer to it later.
Tighter is Better
Parents often leave a little “give” in car seat straps when securing their children, thinking that they will be more comfortable if they have some room to move. However, research shows that securing children tightly in a car seat is ideal to protect them against injury.
Pay Attention to Recalls
Because products designed for infants and toddlers have such serious safety implications, they receive a great deal of scrutiny and are often the subject of product recalls. Prudent parents will routinely monitor lists of recalled products to ensure that their child’s car seat remains safe for use.
Abide by Age and Weight Limits
For newborns, parents should use infant car seats specifically designed to protect tiny babies and their delicate bodies. Manufacturers also offer car seats for toddlers who have different safety needs. In addition, older children use booster seats that are customized for a specific age and size range. Parents should carefully follow the age and weight specifications for car seats and resist the temptation to bump their child to another model before they are ready. On the other hand, when children clearly exceed the age and weight limit for a particular car seat, parents should immediately invest in a new one designed for their child’s body type.
Face the Car Seat the Right Way
Many child advocates, including the American Pediatric Association, recommend that car seats should face the back of the car for a child’s first two years of life. The car seats of children aged two and older can face forward in a vehicle. Parents should follow those guidelines.
Set a Good Example
If parents don’t take proper precautions while riding in vehicles, it sends a message to children that passenger safety is unimportant. For example, if a child sees adults riding in a car without seat belts or engaging in other risky behavior, he or she will be less likely to adhere to safety guidelines in the future. In addition, if parents periodically make exceptions to safety-related routines (like allowing a child to ride in a car seat unbuckled for a short drive down the road), those exceptions could eventually become the standard. In short, families should rigidly adhere to proper safety protocol at all times when child passengers are involved.
Regardless of your children’s age, keeping them safe is your primary duty as a parent. Therefore, putting careful thought and effort into the selection and use of a car seat must be a priority.
How do you teach your children car safety?
John Egan is managing editor of the website Insurance Quotes, which provides online car insurance news and services to consumers in all 50 states. John’s goal is to deliver high-quality content and Car Insurance Resources to drivers so they can make informed decisions about choices that affect their pocketbooks and their driving experience.Featured image courtesy of Flickr.