Top 11 Important Car Seat Safety Tips for Toddlers

Car Seat Safety TipsI say with fair confidence that the majority, if not all of us, reading this blog post use car seats for our toddlers.  According to, “Kids should be in a carseat or booster until they can be seated properly in a seat belt.  For most kids, this is around 8-12 years old or 4′ 9″ tall, but proper seatbelt fit is the most important factor.”

Unless Britney Spears is reading this and trying to escape the paparazzi and if she is, then CALL ME, BRIT-BRIT! I LOVE YOU!  ahem. Had to get that off my chest.

So we all use car seats to keep our kiddos protected in the event of a crash, but it’s important to be sure that you are using the car seat correctly.  I gathered information from my own experience, but mostly from and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  They’re the experts!

Car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. The best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way. — National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A confession:  For months, well on into Harrison’s second year of life, I thought I was strapping him in correctly.  But then with the help of a few friends, I learned that I wasn’t.  His chest strap was too low, he had extras in the car seat, etc.  Which meant that Harrison wasn’t as safe as he could be.  I’m not a helicopter parent and I’m not a fear-mongerer, but I do believe strongly in following basic, easy safety guidelines when it comes to my kid staying alive.  So I’d like to be that friend for you and give you tips to help make sure you are using the right seat, the right position, and the right technique for strapping down your most precious cargo:

  • Rear-facing is safest 1 of 11
    Rear-facing is safest
    Rear-facing helps spread the impact of a crash throughout the chest and body, rather than taking it all in the neck and head, which is better for immature spines and large heads (like tots!). It used to be a rule that you could turn your child forward at 20 lbs or 1 years old, but now The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be kept in rear-facing seats for at least 2 years (preferably until they outgrow the car seats rear-facing capabilities).
  • No coats! No coats! No coats! 2 of 11
    No coats! No coats! No coats!
    Look, I know it's cold in the winter, especially for you up North. But it is not safe to buckle the car seat over the coat. Options? Put the coat on backwards over the straps. Use a blanket. Preheat the car.
  • It should not shake more than 1 inch each way 3 of 11
    It should not shake more than 1 inch each way
    To be sure your seat is in correctly and tightly latched to the car, the seat should not move more than one inch in each direction. If it can, then tighten the tethers.
  • Know your strap slot height 4 of 11
    Know your strap slot height
    Rear-facing: Straps below or at shoulder level. Forward-facing: Straps above or at shoulder level. Tip: Buy a carseat that is easy to adjust the straps so that you don't find excuses not to make adjustments as the kid grows.
  • The chest clip should be at armpit level 5 of 11
    The chest clip should be at armpit level
    If it's down by the belly, it's wrong.
  • If it’s been in a crash, throw it away 6 of 11
    If it's been in a crash, throw it away
    If your seat is in a crash, then destroy it immediately and contact your insurance company; your plan should cover the cost of the new seat. This is an excellent argument for not buying used unless you know with 100% certainty that the seat was never, ever in a crash or even a fender bender. (and in MANY states and provinces, it's become illegal to sell or purchase a used car seat. BE SURE you check with your local laws.)
  • The straps should be snug 7 of 11
    The straps should be snug
    Sometimes Harry complains that his are "too tight!" but I just say, "Sorry, bud." The straps should be snug enough that you cannot pinch any strap between your fingers.
  • Check the expiration date. 8 of 11
    Check the expiration date.
    Did you know that ALL car seats expire? The protections wear down with age in the heat of a car. Check the expiration date on your seat and toss it out if it's over.
  • Use the belt or LATCH system, but not both 9 of 11
    Use the belt or LATCH system, but not both
    This is one time where doubling up does not equal better protection. Which system works best depends on your car, seat position, etc. Also, be sure to use the top tether when forward-facing.
  • Don’t add any extras 10 of 11
    Don't add any extras
    No extra pillows or toys attached to the seat. For example, a neck pillow bought separate from the car seat can become lodged in a position where the car seat cannot function properly to protect the child's neck and spine.
  • Have it inspected 11 of 11
    Have it inspected
    Most local hospitals and fire stations have car seat inspectors on site. Call ahead to make an appointment.

photos: istockphoto


Article Posted 4 years Ago

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