Many parents believe that car seat safety just means having their child in a seat made for their height and weight. Sadly, even if you’re following Washington car seat laws, your child may not be as safe in the car as they could be. Washington law dictates that infants one year or younger must be rear-facing (American Association of Pediatrics recommends minimum two years), children up to four years and 40 pounds must be in a five-point harness, and up to age eight children must be in some type of booster seat. Children up to age 13 are required to sit in the back seat of the vehicle unless that would be an inconvenience. These laws are unfortunately pretty lenient considering what we know about child car safety.
Every car seat you install should be checked by an certified car seat safety expert. You can find car seat check ups by county. Note that many check up events require that you register ahead of time. This post is by no means a replacement for an expert evaluation.
3 Simple Car Seat Safety Tips that You Should Know:
1. Keep car seats rear facing as long as possible
Facing a child’s car seat forward can be an exciting milestone for some parents, but is one that should be held off as long as possible. Car seat experts recommend keeping kids rear-facing until they are at least two years old, and many car seats will now allow for children to rear-face for even longer. Riding rear-facing in a vehicle is a proven five times safer for everyone, but children under five years old are especially vulnerable because of their immature spines and body proportions. Keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible greatly reduces the odds of them being killed or seriously injured in an automobile accident.
2. “Nipples and armpits”
What is nipples and armpits? It’s what you need to remember when adjusting the chest clip on your child’s five-point harness.
The chest clip should always be positioned between your child’s nipples and armpits. A chest clip that is too low can push into the soft belly during and accident and damage internal organs.
All straps should be as tight as possible around your child without being uncomfortable. You shouldn’t be able to slip more than a finger between your child and the seat belt.
Much like wanting to flip kids to forward-facing too soon, many parents upgrade their children to booster seats earlier than recommended. If your child still meets the height and weight recommendations for a seat with a five-point harness, that’s where they should stay.
3. Remove winter coats before buckling
Of course you want your child to be warm, but puffy winter coats can actually make car seats unsafe. Heavy coats compress in an accident while the seat belt remains in place where it was buckled around the coat. This creates a gap between the seat belt and your child that can be large enough for them to slip through, or may cause the belt to hit in the wrong places on the child’s body.
Remove thick coats before putting your child into their car seat and buckle them in tight. Then, either cover them with a blanket, tucked around but never under the seat belts, or put their coat back on backwards over the car seat and seat belt. It may be slightly inconvenient but it is much safer.
We hope that this information helps keep your family safer. We encourage you to pass along this info to other parents. Correcting other people’s parenting is always a touchy subject but in this case it could save a life.
You have your car seat inspected by a certified expert each time you change car seats or get a new vehicle, as different seats have different installation guidelines for different types of automobiles.