Car Seat Safety Basics

Car Seat Safety Basics

May 22, 2018

Car Seat Safety Basics

Car Seat Safety Basics
Here’s what you need you need to know about safety and installation when choosing a car seat.Car Seat Safety Basics

Car seat laws vary by state (here’s a good resource to see what yours requires), but one thing is certain—all babies and small children need to be in a car seat. It’s really one of the only baby gear items you absolutely must have.

So when you’re deciding on a car seat, you want to get the safest one you can. While car seats have to pass strict federal safety regulations, some have additional features or plusher fabrics that can make for a cushier ride for baby.

Car seat safety features to look for:

Side-impact protection: Currently side impact protection isn’t regulated, but it’s good to look for in a car seat in case your car is hit from the side instead of the front or back.

A 5-point harness: What’s this? It refers to the five straps (two across the shoulders, two for the waist and come that comes up between the legs and all buckling in the middle) that hold your baby in place in the car seat.

Adjustable harness: You’ll want this so you can adjust the straps to make sure baby is secure now and as they get bigger. A “no-rethread harness” can make this easier. You’ll want to be sure the straps are snug but not too tight. If you’ve tightened the straps and can still the pinch the strap fabric between your fingers, it’s not tight enough.

Car seats for the correct age and size: Speaking of growing babies, the safest car seat is the one that actually fits them. Many parents begin with an infant car seat, as they are easy to remove from the car and carry and snap into some strollers (learn more about infant car seats here). Children typically outgrow these when they’re around 35 lbs and 32”.

Babies then transition to convertible car seats (though you can also use these from birth, as well). These car seats take kids to the booster seat years or beyond.

The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat has all of the above. The seat has side impact protection and works rear-facing for babies from 4-35 lbs and up to 32”. Other features? A harness system that lets you adjust the harness and headrest together, a canopy with window and visor for shade and sun protection for baby and it connects securely with Graco Click Connect strollers to create a travel system. And it’s easy to install.

The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Car Seat works as a rear-facing infant car seat up to 40 lbs., then transitions to a forward-facing car seat, a highback booster and finally a backless booster for kids up to 120 lbs. That’s a lot of years of use!

This video gives you a view into how the Graco infant car seats are installed:

Installation is key

What’s the biggest safety tip for car seats? Make sure it is installed correctly!

When you’re shopping for a car seat, look for features that will help make installing the car seat easier and let you know you’ve done it right.

Most car seats can be installed using the car’s seat belt or with LATCH. This stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. They’re built into vehicles newer than 2003 and are those u-shaped metal bars in the crack of your back seat (sometimes cars have an illustration of a child in a car seat to help you locate them). Car seats with an easy-to-reach LATCH tightener make installation easier.

For extra reassurance, look for a car seat that comes with an easy-to-read bubble level indicator. These allow you to easily see when your car seat is level and correctly installed.

The car seat manual will walk you through the steps on getting the right install, but if you’re unsure or just want the extra peace of mind, make an appointment with a Child Passenger Safety technician and have them review your work.

This car seat is hassle free to install with either the seat belt or LATCH—it’s just three steps for a secure install. Plus, there’s easy-to-read level indicator lets you know it’s in right. The adjustable base has four recline positions that lets you customize the fit to your vehicle. And it has the safety features you’d want, like a 5-point no-rethread harness and it’s been side impact tested. There’s also a one-hand adjustable handle and silent shade canopy you can adjust without distrubing baby. Use it rear-facing for babies up to 35 lbs and 32.”

Rear-facing vs front-facing

Rear facing is the safest position for babies to ride in, as the head, neck and spine are better supported in a crash. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping kids rear facing until they’re two. Keep weight and height limits in mind when you’re shopping for an infant car seat. The higher the they are (like 30 or 35 lbs), the longer you’ll be able to use them.

If and when you’re in the market for a convertible car seat, note that some let baby sit rear-facing longer.

The key point of this convertible car seat? You can use it rear facing for up to 50 lbs, and it provides five inches of extra legroom, so your child can ride safely and comfortably rear-facing longer. Once you’ve hit that milestone, use it as forward-facing car seat and boosters for big kids up to 120 lbs.

Other car seat safety tips

  • Install the car seat in the back seat only. If you only have one car seat, the middle seat is the safest spot.
  • Buying a new car seat is recommended, as you might not know a used car seat’s accident history.
  • Keep an eye on car seat recalls and take immediate action if your seat gets recalled. This is a good place to look.
  • In cold weather, remove your child’s jacket or bulky clothing items before you put them in the car seat to get the safest harness fit. Then put a blanket or jacket over their laps.

And remember, car seats today are safer than they’ve ever been, so choose the car seat that works best for your budget, car and lifestyle.

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