Car Seat Safety 101
Is there anything more important than the safety of our kids? We think not. We'll do anything to protect our little offsprings, but when it comes to car seat safety, not everyone is aware of how vigilant you need to be. A twisted strap, an ill-fitted seat, even a child that's too heavy for a particular seat could be potentially dangerous. Here's our ultimate guide to getting it absolutely right.
1. Forward-facing seats
According to the RSA, it is best to keep your baby in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible, as they provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. They must only be moved forward when they have exceeded the maximum weight (29lb) for the baby seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.
EU Child Safety Protection laws now state that rear-facing seats must be used from birth to 12-15 months and for babies up to 29lbs.
The RSA says, “Rearward-facing seats provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. So, it is best to keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible. Only move them to a forward-facing seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the baby seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.”
2. Loose harness straps
In a collision, a baby's body will move until it hits the harness, so the straps should be kept tight to minimise any movement. As a guide, you shouldn't be able to pinch any slack in the fabric between your fingers.
3. Expiration date
We were surprised to learn that car seats expire; however, it does make sense if you consider not only does technology change, but materials also wear down. Most car seat expiration dates can be found on a sticker underneath the seat, but if you can't find yours, contact the manufacturer. Also, keep in mind that the date starts from when the seat was made, not bought.
4. Buckling over extras
Car seat experts advise that babies should be swaddled AFTER fastening them in the car seat, instead of fastening the straps over a swaddle. Likewise, bulky coats shouldn't be worn underneath the harness of a car seat, as the harness may be too loose to work effectively. To get around this, dress little ones in thin layers, or put a bulky coat on (back-to-front) over the straps.
5. Ill-fitting car seats
At present, as many as three out of four child car seats are incorrectly fitted. Addressing this problem, RSA's Check It Fits is a free-of-charge service with trained experts who help ensure child seats are properly fitted in cars all over Ireland.
Experts have warned that many of the casualties could have been avoided had parents secured their child in their car seat before beginning their journey. Last year, a terrifying Which? survey revealed that parents were not getting the best advice on fitting child car seats at the purchasing stage. In fact, at one council fitting clinic, all of the seats bought online were wrong for the car, wrong for the child or wrongly fitted. AA president Edmund King said: "They indicate a clear rise in in-car child casualties. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest this could be linked to the failure of parents to properly fit their children’s child seats."
6. Twisted straps
Twisted straps can not only be frustrating and uncomfortable, but they are also potentially dangerous, so it's really important to get them straight again. A flat shoulder strap spreads the load of an accident evenly across the point of contact with your child. This reduces the forces applied to their shoulders and chest. To minimise strap twisting, Australian child car seat manufacturer InfaSecure advises: Fasten the harness when not in use. Straighten the harness each time you use it, even if there’s only a half twist. Don’t let your children put on or take off their straps if they’re not able to keep them straight.
Watch this quick and simple tip called the 'triangle trick', which will help you fix those pesky twisted straps, without making you want to pull your hair out.
7. Sleeping in car seats should be avoided
We all know, it is virtually impossible to stop your baby falling asleep in the car seat – especially when they are very little, the motion is a Godsend sometimes for parents who reply on car-time for their baby's nap, but experts have warned that allowing very young babies to sleep in car seats, slings, bouncers and buggies puts them at risk of suffocation and strangulation. New research published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that contrary to popular belief, the only truly safe place for a baby to sleep is on a mattress in a cot. They examined the records of 47 infants who died while sitting in a baby seat or carrying system between April 2004 and December 2008; researchers at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center concluded that a strap caused strangulation in 52 per cent of cases. 66 per cent of cases involved an infant who had fallen asleep in a car seat.
The researchers offered the following tips:
Do not leave infants unsupervised in these devices, awake or asleep.
Do not leave children in car seats with unbuckled or partially buckled straps
Never place car seats on a soft or unstable surface
Be aware that children in devices such as swings and bouncers can sometimes move into dangerous positions that could compromise their airways, even if they are correctly strapped in
Infants should not be able to slump forward in a seat. Ensure restraints are used correctly
Slings can be particularly dangerous because of the ease at which an infant's airway can be collapsed. The infant's face should always be ‘visible and kissable'
Do not place more than one infant in a swing meant for one
Infants should sleep on their backs on a firm mattress, with no loose bedding.
This article is brought to you by SEAT.
The new SEAT 161 offer extension includes 0% finance on selected new Ibiza and Leon models and 3 years service plan for €299 (saving €400). New Leon SE Select model for only €219 per month with PCP. New Ibiza starting from €159 per month on PCP. For more information click here.