Are you making these car seat mistakes?

Are you making these car seat mistakes?

As families head out on vacation this summer, they will likely take steps to keep their family healthy and safe. Seatbelts are clicked. Sunscreen and bug spray are packed. But one important thing may be overlooked – car seat safety.

Myisha Franklin, injury prevention and community outreach coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital, says there are aspects of car seat safety that many parents don’t know about.

“Car seats and booster seats provide protection for infants and children in a crash, yet car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13,” she says. “It’s important to choose the right seat and use it correctly every time your child is in the car.”

She discusses five important safety tips to avoid putting a child at risk when using car seats.

Check the expiration date

Many parents don’t realize car seats have expiration dates, but there is a point at which they are considered past their useful life. Car seats expire to account for the wear and tear they endure as well as for changes in safety standards, materials used and methods of manufacturing.

Rear face as long as possible

The U.S. Department of Transportation urges parents to keep children rear-facing as long as possible, as it is the best way to help keep them safe. In an accident, a rear-facing car seat absorbs the impact of the crash and protects a child’s body. Check your car seat’s manual for information on the maximum height and weight that is considered safe for a child to ride rear-facing.

Pack away the projectiles

Belongings that are not secured in a moving vehicle pose the risk of becoming airborne in the event of a sudden stop or crash, potentially causing injury. Safely stow loose items in the vehicle’s storage compartments to mitigate this risk.

Ensure proper installation and usage

Familiarize yourself with your child’s car seat by reading the manual before use. There are multiple ways to install car seats depending on if you are using it front- or rear-facing and the type of vehicle. If a child is using a rear-facing car seat, the shoulder straps should be at or just below the shoulders. If they are riding front facing, the straps should be at or above the shoulders. Front-facing car seats should also use the top tether to prevent forward head movement and protect from head, neck and spine injuries in the case of a crash. Look for the location of the tether and anchors for forward-facing tether hookup and the directions on how to use the vehicle hardware.

If you’re unsure about any feature of your car seat, contact your local hospital’s car seat safety program.

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.