This week is Child Passenger Safety Week in the United States, an annual event to raise awareness for car seat safety.
At Diono, our most important mission is keeping children safe. In honor of CPS Week, we teamed up with our Global Safety Advocate and Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor, Allana Pinkerton, to gather her favorite car seat safety tips. Read on for Allana’s expert tips!
Why is car seat safety so important? Here are the facts:
Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children in the United States.
- Four out of five car seats are not properly installed.
- Car seats reduce the risk of injury by 71-82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% in comparison to seat belts alone.
When it comes to car seat safety, there is no such thing as “overprotective.” Car seats save lives! Here are ten safety tips to ensure your child is snug and safe in their car seat:
1. Read the manual: Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. Luckily, your child’s car seat does. We know the manual can seem daunting, but it is detailed for a reason. You should always read both the car seat manual AND your vehicle manual, as both contain vital information about installation, seat belt function, seating positions and safety warnings. Before installing, allow yourself plenty of time to get to know your car seat. Store your manuals in a safe spot (like your glove box or storage compartment) so you can reference them later as your child grows.
2. Harnessing 101: Is your child properly harnessed? Whether rear-facing or forward-facing, the chest clip on your child’s harness should always be placed at armpit level. This ensures the harness stays on the child’s shoulders for maximum safety. The 5-point harness should fit snug and comfortable. You should not be able to pinch the harness strap at the collar bone.
3. Rear-facing is safer: Rear-facing car seats offer maximum protection for your child’s head, neck and spinal cord, yet 77% of children are moved into a forward-facing seat too soon. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay rear-facing until the maximum height or weight is reached. Don’t rush to move your child to the forward-facing position, take your time! Because every child develops at a different rate, age is not the only factor to consider. As best practice, we recommend keeping your child rear-facing to the maximum weight or height of their car seat.
4. Re-check the harness slot: When was the last time you checked your child’s car seat for proper harness slot placement? When positioning a 5-point harness on your child, stick to this important rule. For rear-facing seats, the harness straps should be at or BELOW the child’s shoulders. For forward-facing seats, the harness straps should be at or ABOVE the child’s shoulders. Because your little one is constantly growing, check frequently for proper positioning.
5. Don’t skip the booster: Vehicles are equipped with seat belts meant for ADULTS. They do not fit children properly until they are between 9-12 years old. Once a child has outgrown their 5-point harness, they are ready for a booster seat. Boosters help ensure proper seat belt position and help reduce injury by 45% compared to a seat belt alone. To determine whether your child is ready to use a seat belt only, check out the 5-Step Test.
6. Use the tether: Are you using the top tether on your car seat? Head injury is one of the most common injuries for children in a car crash. The top tether provides additional safety for your child while forward-facing, keeping the head from hitting the seat in front and minimizing strain on the neck and spinal column during a crash. Refer to your car seat manual AND vehicle manual to determine proper tether installation.
7. Always buckle: No matter how close to home or your destination, always buckle your child and yourself. Car crashes often happen close to home, and even a low-speed crash can cause serious injury. Take the time to properly fasten your children AND yourself each and every trip.
8. Proper belt path: When using a seat belt to install a car seat, check to make sure you are using the proper belt path. Some car seats have two, one for rear-facing and one for forward-facing. Check your manual for more information.
9. Seat belt OR LATCH, not both: Never use the seat belt and lower anchor connectors at the same time, unless permitted by the car seat manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer. Choose one or the other. Remember that some car seats have lower anchor weight limits, so check your car seat manual to make sure your child has not exceeded the LATCH limit.
10. The million-dollar question: The number one question that parents like to ask a Child Passenger Safety Technician is “what is the best car seat?” When it comes to car seat safety, there is no one seat fits all. The right car seat is the one that fits your vehicle, fits your child, and the one you will use correctly every time you travel. Not every car seat will fit every vehicle or every child. It’s best to try before you buy or purchase from a retailer with a convenient return policy. If you have friends with car seats, try theirs out too.
Knowledge is power! Each and every day this week we will be sharing these tips on our social media channels. Follow along at #DionoSafetyTips and help us spread the importance of car seat safety by sharing our posts. Our number one goal is to get as many children traveling safely down the road as possible.