Whether you have a baby or toddler, the child probably spends plenty of time in a car seat. While most adults know car seat safety is important, they don’t always know the specifics. We hope this information will help.
Check the Car Seat Itself
You should always make sure that you position the car seat properly. A baby’s car seat should face the rear until the child turns 2 years old. Toddlers and older children should ride in front-facing seats. Children between 10 and 12 may need a booster seat.
Install the car seat tightly; when you grasp the belt path, there should be less than one inch of movement from side to side and front to back. The belt path is the place where the seat belt or anchor connector strap feeds through the car seat. Always make sure the tether is attached to protect your child’s head and neck.
Car seat straps must be the correct height. Many car seats have a five-point harness. For a five-point harness front-facing car seat, the straps should be at or above your child’s shoulders. If you’re using a rear-facing seat, the straps should be at or below the shoulders. Before a car ride, give your straps the pinch test. If you can grab excess slack between two fingers, tighten the straps.
Check the Date
Yes, car seats expire. Depending on the manufacturer, they can last as long as 12 years. However, consider replacing the car seat if you notice tears, cracks, or breaks. Even small ones can be harmful.
Read the Manual
Many parents think car seat installation is easy, but manuals may contain important information that isn’t obvious. Read the whole manual, so you don’t miss manufacturer-specific instructions. Also, re-read the manual for your vehicle. Some car seats fit better in certain vehicles than in others. Be especially vigilant if you have a small car or a high-riding truck.
Have Car Seats Inspected
Regular car seat inspections can help prevent problems. Community centers, churches, fire stations and other locations conduct free checkup events. Call or email to find one near you. Double-check warranties and return policies to make sure they fit your needs.
To learn more and review Tennessee’s Child Restraint Laws, click here.