Who doesn’t love a good old American road trip? Some people see a car packed with car seats and can’t even imagine the thought of traveling with kids. Not us, we say! Having a growing family is even more of an exceptional reason to explore the open road! Why? Because you get to enjoy the wonder of travel through the eyes of your children!
It’s important to keep in mind that there are, of course, differences when traveling with your kids – especially if they are still in a car seat. State laws may vary, but children are required to ride in some variation of a car seat from birth through age 12.
Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) suggests that 1 in 4 seats are not used or installed correctly. To keep your little ones as safe as can be, we’ve compiled this handy checklist for you to make sure they are safe and sound every time they get in a car.
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A properly installed car seat should not move more than one inch in any direction. Make sure you are using only the LATCH system provided OR the safety belt to secure the seat, not both. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for more direction. According to the NHTSA, properly secured safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent in infants and 54 percent in toddlers.
For optimal safety, if your car seat is rear-facing, the straps should begin below your child’s shoulders. If your car seat is forward-facing, the straps should be parallel with or slightly above the shoulders.
The correct position on your child’s chest is parallel with their armpits in the middle of their chest. Any higher or lower increases the risk of damage to their organs!
The seat straps should be snug and you should not be able to pinch any excess material. It’s simple to check, just try and pinch the strap with your thumb and forefinger. If you can pinch any extra webbing, tighten up the straps until you can’t!
It’s okay to throw a light sweater, hat, and warm socks on your little one before you strap them into their seat, but avoid bundling them up until you’ve arrived safely at your destination! The extra bulk can reduce the effectiveness of your child’s restraint system in the event of a collision. To keep them toasty in transit, just lay some blankets above the restraints once they are secure in their seat.
While they may be cute, products like custom strap pads and squeaky toy bars have not been tested for safety and could do more harm than good in the event of a collision. They may even void the warranty on your car seat!
That’s right: just like your milk, car seats expire. As new models are manufactured, old models are no longer tested for safety, and their materials can wear down and deteriorate with time. Always be extra cautious if you’ve been gifted with an old car seat from a friend – physically, it may look okay, but it may actually be expired.
Don’t forget to always read through your car seat owner’s manual prior to use. While 96% of parents believe they have properly installed their car seat, research shows that only 3 out of every 10 children are restrained properly. If you ever question your installation, stop by your local child-passenger safety technician to confirm your car seat installation is up to spec. Have an excellent, stress-free and safe trip!