Experts offer tips on car seat safety

  • Nov. 20, 2013 4:54 p.m.

Car seats are integral in baby safety in the car, but if not used properly can be just about useless or more harmful.

“A lot of parents don’t read their manuals or really know how to use their car seat, they think it’s straightforward and that there are no tricks to using it properly, but there are,” said registered car seat safety technician Abby Wah.

Wah said part of what parents don’t understand is a car seat’s limitations including weight, height and developmental level.

“Carseats each have their own weight and height restrictions, so parents and care givers need to make sure they follow those closely. The restrictions change depending on if you’re using an infant bucket seat, a rear facing seat, a front facing seat or a booster,” said Wah.

She added that if parents are unsure about their own seat, to refer to their manual or find a registered car seat safety technician in their area.

With winter fast approaching, Wah said the most important thing for people to remember when putting their child in a car seat is that winter jackets are not appropriate to be worn while the child is strapped in.

“They create the illusion that the straps are tight, but coats squish. If you get in an accident, the force of the impact will compress the jacket further, creating a pocket where your child can move around.”

This movement in the seat on impact can cause injuries like whiplash, concussions, broken bones, and most severely, death. “Children’s bones and bodies are brittle and fragile until everything is fully fused. This doesn’t happen until they are much older, closer to five years old. Until this time, we need to do everything in our power to protect them.”

Wah said the best way to utilize a winter jacket in a car seat is to buckle the child in without the coat first, snug the straps tight, and then put their coat on backwards over their arms.

Some other basic things that Wah said are important to remember include the pinch test, the chest-clip and the importance of rear-facing car seats.

“The pinch test is what it sounds like, pinch the strap above the chest clip. If you can grab material, the straps are too loose. The chest clip also is exactly what it sounds like, a clip that is meant to be on your child’s chest.”

The chest clip should line up with your child’s armpits at all ages, and Wah said this is one of the most important things a parent can remember. Without the chest clip in the proper position, a child can potentially be thrown from their car seat in a collision.

Wah also said that parents who aren’t sure if their child should be rear facing or front facing should ask themselves a few questions.

“If your child can stay rear-facing, keep them that way. It’s safer for them. To move front facing each seat has different qualifications but most of them say one year, over a certain weight and height, and able to walk without assistance.”

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