One of the most terrifying drives of my life was the drive home from the hospital when I had my son in the car for the first time. Never in my life had I carried more precious cargo. He seemed so fragile, so vulnerable. I wasn’t too concerned about my ability to keep the car on the road; it was all the other drivers I was worried about. You can’t control other drivers, and you never know when they might do something dumb and ruin your day.
A couple of months ago, I was hit by another driver, and it ended up totaling my car. I was concerned about myself, my car, the other driver, and the oncoming traffic whose lane my crippled car was now sitting in — but I was also grateful that I didn’t have my son in the car with me. Even though he probably would have been fine in his car seat, I didn’t want to think about him being jarred and slammed around from the impact.
This brings me to talk about car seats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), September 16-22 was Child Passenger Safety Week, a time to emphasize the importance of having your child in the appropriate, properly installed car seat. To help you with your car seat decisions, this article will touch on information about car seats, proper installation, and some tips I’ve received.
About Car Seats
First thing you should know is that a car seat must adhere to the laws and regulations established by the NHTSA regarding child restraint systems before they can legally be sold to the public. They must undergo testing to ensure they are in fact safe for a child to ride in. Therefore, any car seat you see at the store has been tested for safety and has passed.
Mikey Rox, principal of Paper Rox Scissors, shared some of the tips he had received from Ingrid Kellaghan, the founder of Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago. According to Kellaghan, all car seats on the market have passed crash-safety and fire-safety tests, so the main thing you need to be concerned with is choosing the appropriate car seat for your child’s age and weight.
As your child grows, you will need to make sure they are in the age- and weight-appropriate car seat, as there are car seats specifically suited for children of different sizes. Each car seat will have the age and weight limits displayed on the packaging and the car seat itself in most cases. NHTSA also provides a basic guide explaining the type of car seat they recommend for each age group.
The proper installation of a car seat is not to be taken lightly. An improperly installed car seat can result in the injury or death of your child. If you get in an accident and the car seat comes loose, it’s going to fly and bounce all over the car with your kid still in it, or your child may even fall out, so, make sure that seat is installed correctly.
Each car seat will come with step-by-step instructions on how to properly install and adjust it, and for further instruction, the NHTSA has a page with videos and instructions about how to install car seats using seat belts or the LATCH system, as well as how to install booster seats. There are many other websites and even YouTube videos that can walk you through this process as well, but I recommend sticking to either the manufacturer’s instructions or NHTSA’s.
Some high-tech car seats make installation easier, such as the Summer Infant Prodigy Infant Car Seat. Meg Parker, account director with Hollywood Public Relations, said that this seat comes with a digital display that walks you through the process and shows a green smiley face when each step is completed correctly. The seat also features a one-hand tightening system that keeps you from having to push down on the base with your knee as you pull the slack out of the seat belt or straps, and a harness that will adjust to your child’s shoulder height automatically.
However, even with super high-tech seats that are essentially mistake-proof, many people (myself included) don’t feel confident enough to install the car seat on their own for the first time. To deal with this uncertainly, I went across the street to a sheriff’s office before leaving the hospital with my newborn son, and a constable there installed the seat for me, showing and explaining to me how to do it correctly in the future.
In fact, given the seriousness of car seat installation and the need for it to be done correctly, there are many places you can go to get help. Many police stations, fire stations, hospitals, and car dealerships, as well as some retailers, will have people on hand who can help parents learn how to properly install a car seat and adjust the harness to ensure there is no risk of the child coming out of the car seat in the event of an accident.
To make sure your car seat is properly installed and still meets safety requirements, you can use the NHTSA’s Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find a certified technician near you that can inspect your car seat, as well as show you how to install and use your car seat so you can do it on your own later on.
Accidents happen on the road every day, and you never know when you might be involved in one. Make sure your child is in a properly installed and safe car seat that suits their size. Your children are more valuable than anything else in your life, so do all that you can to protect them while riding in the car.