Car seats are not set-it-and-forget-it: There are adjustments to make throughout the time your child is required to be secured in a safety seat. John Carl, child passenger safety coordinator with Renown’s Child Health Institute, joins Channel 4 KRNV (NBC) and Channel 11 KRXI (FOX) for Best Medicine Wednesday — a new weekly segment highlighting useful health information — and shares tips all parents and caregivers need to know.
Car seat safety — it’s something you tend to think about when you bring your new baby home for the first time, but may not think about it as much after that. But you should, because two out of three car seats are installed incorrectly. So what are the do’s and don’ts for forward and rear-facing car seats and how do the rules change with the seasons? We asked John Carl, child passenger safety coordinator with the Child Health Institute, to walk us through what we all need to know to make sure our precious cargo rides safely.
As we head into colder temperatures, is it okay to put our little ones in the car seat with a jacket or sweater? What should we do to make sure they’re safe and warm?
Colder weather can be a little tricky for kids in car seats. Obviously, you want to keep your kids warm but it’s important to make sure they’re still safe.
That’s why we recommend strap, then wrap. A bulky winter coat can compress in a crash – leaving your child’s harness loose. This puts them at greater risk of injury in a crash. The safest thing to do is strap your child in the car seat with thin clothing and no coat. Then once they are hooked in, cover them with a blanket or put the coat on backwards – on top of the car seat straps.
How can we make sure our kids are buckled in safely?
For all ages, the height and tightness of the harness is very important. Multiple layers of clothing can make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. You need to remove any bulky clothing and blankets and do the “pinch test.” The harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing, and at or above their shoulders when forward-facing. Once you buckle and tighten the harness, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you can’t pinch any excess, that’s a good sign.
What are the major rules parents need to know with rear-facing car seats?
One of the biggest things is changing your child from rear-facing to front-facing too early. The general rule is kids should remain rear-facing until 2 years old or until they reach the maximum weight of their specific car seat, which can vary.
This may seem a bit odd because at this age many kids have gotten taller and their legs are longer, but in reality, even if their legs stretch out the chance of injury in a rear-facing car seat is less than 1 in 10,000.
What about forward-facing car seats?
Once your child is a minimum of 2 years old and you turn them forward-facing, it’s important to remember to keep them forward-facing until at least 4 years old and once they hit their weight limit — typically 35 to 40 pounds.
Additionally, once they hit somewhere between 50 and 65 pounds, your car seat should specify changing from the harness strap to a regular car seat belt.
And lastly, they should stay in a forward-facing car seat until 4 years or when they hit the maximum weight. That’s when you’ll move them into a booster seat.
What else do we need to know?
For any age, it’s also important to remember any items that aren’t sold with the car seat have not been crash tested and may interfere with the child’s protection in an accident — so the safest thing to do is not use them at all. This includes car seat covers, sleeping bag inserts, toys and accessories.
For help ensuring your child’s car seat is installed correctly, you can have their car seat inspected and/or installed by a certified professional at Renown Children’s Hospital’s Car Seat Safety Station.