December 18, 2017

A properly installed car seat is one of the simplest ways to protect your child

When you’re driving to grandmother’s house this holiday season, make sure your little one is safely secured

Each year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. Everyone knows that all little ones should be in a car seat when riding in any vehicle for their safety. It is the only way to protect your children in the event of an automobile accident and it is also required by lawA baby and child car seat acts like a bike helmet: it has a hard exterior to resist impact, shock-absorbing filling and soft padding to keep your little one comfortable.

Proper car seat use reduces the risk of injury, hospitalization or death by more than 70 percent. Seems like using a car seat is one of the simplest things we can do to protect our little ones. Yet only only 20 percent of American parents are installing and using their children’s car seats properly.

When I was researching the brand and model of car seat for my son while I was still pregnant, it was really important that I went with something very highly rated for safety. I poked around online and asked some friends and relatives which car seat they used for their little ones. The Chicco KeyFit 30 travel system was the clear winner for my family’s needs. It is a car seat, baby carrier and stroller system that makes moving around with your newborn pretty easy. The baby carrier clicks into a car seat base in your vehicle or into the stroller base. I could keep Killian in his carrier to go from sidewalk to car to restaurant to home, which is awesome when your little one is sound asleep.

Best of all, it is one of the highest rated car seats for safety in the United States. Because this car seat only works for infants from 4 to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches in height, we had to get a new car seat and stroller system when Killian was about seven months old. Now he is riding in the Chicco NextFit® car seat.

If you are going to deliver your baby at a hospital, you’ll need to install your car seat before your little one arrives so it is all ready to cradle your precious bundle for his first car ride home. Every state requires a car seat in order to leave the hospital with your baby in a car and some hospitals require proof of inspection before discharge. Having a certified child passenger safety technician inspect your car seat is a crucial step to making sure your family is not in the 80 percent who isn’t installing or using the car seat properly. My husband had an expert double-check his installation to ensure everything was ready for Killian. That gave me a lot of peace of mind during our final preparations to welcome our baby boy. There are nearly 30 car seat inspection stations within 25 miles of Center City Philadelphia. When your little one grows into the next stage, like a front-facing or booster seat, revisit that inspection station to ensure each installation is done appropriately.

Buying the right car seat for your child, your vehicle and your family is important. Having it installed correctly and visiting an expert to ensure you’ve done it right is crucial. And then each and every time you put your child in his car seat, you want to make sure he is safely and securely harnessed. Review your car seat’s instruction manual and look up helpful videos on YouTube. The child passenger safety technicians at fitting and inspection stations can also help parents with this important piece.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind for car seat safety:

Choosing the Right One

There are four different kinds of car seats: infant (rear-facing), convertible, forward-facing and booster. Killian’s first car seat was an infant rear-facing which is recommended for all babies. His current car seat is a convertible meaning he can face backwards or forwards depending upon his age and size. There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a car seat: your child’s size and age; safety features like a LATCH system and five-point harness; your vehicle and where your child’s car seat will be placed in the backseat. There in a ton of information online to help guide your choice, but I also recommend consulting the experts like your pediatrician and nurses, Consumer Reports and other parents you trust.

Car Seats in Cabs

Living in the city means using cabs. And taxis do not come equipped with car seats. It may seem tempting to just hold your little one on your lap for a quick drive to the other side of town, but the potential for disaster is not worth the risk. Parents should always bring their car seats when riding in a cab. While some driving services like Uber offer vehicles with car seats, I do not like the idea of rolling the dice on the kind of car seat that may show up. I think it is best to take the extra time to install your own car seat every time you are in someone else’s car.

Buying New v. Used

My cousins passed us their gently used Chicco KeyFit infant car seat and travel system, which was awesome because it saved us a lot of money. If you are offered a hand-me-down or are considering buying a used car seat, double check its expiration date and ask if it has ever been involved in an accident. Car seats may not be sound after a wreck and won’t always show the wear and tear. If purchasing a car seat is a hardship, there are car seat loaner programs available to families who qualify.

No Coats in the Car Seat

Winter presents a new challenge for car seat safety. Those warm puffy coats that you are bundling your sons and daughters in to protect them against the harsh Northeaster season are actually really dangerous when worn in the car. Bulky winter coats can counteract the harness and safety features of the car seat. Because a harness cannot be pulled as tight with extra layers, the car seat will not work properly in the event of an accident. Some coats, like the Patagonia down sweater jacket, are recommended for car seat use as long as the jacket is unzipped for the harness to be properly secured close to your child’s body. But the best bet is to take off your child’s winter coat when putting them in the car, securing them into the car seat and then putting their coat or a blanket over them to keep them warm.

Rear Facing Is Best

Rear facing is the safest way for a child to ride in a car seat. In fact, it is five times safer than forward facing! Killian is nearly 15 months old, more than 30 inches in height and 25 pounds, so technically we could turn him around and having him facing forward in his convertible car seat because of the specifications on size given by the car seat’s manufacturer. But we are going to keep rear-facing until his second birthday because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all little ones are in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old. It would be nice to have him facing forward, so I could interact with him more in the car. But safety comes first so I will continue to rely on the baby mirror we have above him in the backseat to keep an eye on him while driving.

Being a parent can be overwhelming at times. You child’s safety, health and wellbeing are always paramount. There are so many decisions to be made, so little room for error, and so much riding on the line. If shopping for, installing and using a car seat seems stressful, ask for help. Knowing that you are protecting your child every time he gets in the car is worth it. And make sure you buckle up, too! Not only is it important for us Moms and Dads to stay safe in the car, it sets a good example for the little ones watching us from the back seat.


Do you have any tips or stories about car seat safety? Share your stories and ideas in the comments, below and Tweet me at @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.