Travel smarter with car seat and stroller safety tips
When traveling with kids, most parents plan for everything — games, snacks, and extra clothes and diapers. With so much planning, however, it’s easy for seemingly basic car seat and stroller safety precautions to get lost in the shuffle. Before you hit the road, use these tips to make sure your trip — whether to the grocery store or a long drive to visit far-away relatives — is as safe and fuss-free as possible for the entire family.
· Make safe seating a priority. The importance of a good car seat cannot be overstated. Some vehicle manufacturers offer a list of suggested car seat models and many car seat companies have detailed online safety resources (such as the Britax Child Safety, Inc. Learning Center at www.britaxusa.com/learning-center/britax-car-seat-features).
· Shop wisely. Choose a car seat that properly fits both your child and your vehicle and is easiest for you to use. Look for car seats that offer advanced safety technologies to reduce the risk of head injury in the event of a vehicle crash. Make sure the car seat has superior side impact protection with features like deep side and head wings made from energy-absorbent material and an adjustable head restraint. Remember never to use a car seat if it’s been involved in a crash or if you don’t know its history. Also, steer clear of after-market items, such as mirrors and hanging toys. Additional products like these that don’t come from the manufacturer can injure your child in a vehicle crash.
· Install your car seat properly. Approximately 96 percent of parents believe their child seats are installed correctly. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seven out of 10 children are either not securely fastened in their car seat or are in a car seat that is not properly secured to the vehicle.
Once you have the seat, follow the provided user guide for installation instructions. Every car seat is different so make sure you follow the installation steps for your particular seat. While securing the seat, be sure to use only one method to lock it into the car — either the car’s seat belt or the seat’s LATCH system. When finished, your seat should not move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
· Check your dates. Car seats should never be used past their expiration date. These vary depending on the manufacturer, but typically car seats expire between 5 and 10 years. Your car seat’s user guide or manufacturer can tell you the expiration date of your seat.
· Keep your child secure rear and forward facing. This year both NHTSA the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidelines for parents to keep children rear-facing longer. When rear facing, position the shoulder straps through the slots at or below your baby’s shoulders. Be sure that rear-facing seats are semi-reclined no more than 45 degrees. This helps ensure that baby’s head stays in contact with the seat and her airway stays open. When your child meets the weight and height requirements to move forward facing, position the shoulder straps through the slots at or above your baby’s shoulders. Always make sure to adjust the chest clip to armpit level.
· Invest in a travel system. When choosing an infant car seat and stroller, consider brands that offer compatible travel systems for easy transfer from car to stroller on the go. Fully compatible models may use the same attachment system for both the stroller and car seat base, which means parents can learn only one safety system and ensure baby is secure wherever she is. Also, while travel systems provide convenience, keep in mind that they are intended for transport in vehicles and not to be used as a place for baby to sleep. Make sure to stop and take baby out of the car seat about every 90 minutes to keep baby stimulated.
· Hold baby safely in place. Make sure baby is completely secure in her stroller. Some strollers even include five-point harness systems comprised of straps or webbing that extend over baby’s hips, shoulders, and between the legs to keep baby protected and seated while in motion.
Once you’ve added these precautions to your safety checklist, you can be sure baby is secure and comfortable on the go.
About Sarah Tilton
Sarah Tilton is a child passenger safety advocate with Britax Child Safety Inc., a leading car seat and stroller manufacturer. An active Certified Passenger Safety (CPS) technician and instructor, Tilton frequently participates in child passenger safety activities at a local, state and national level. She is currently active with the Safe Kids Charlotte Mecklenburg coalition and is a member of the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Training Committee.