All About Babies

7 Tips From a Car Seat Safety Expert Every Parent Should Read Now

Every 33 seconds a child under the age of 13 is involved in a car crash in the U.S. That's why all parents should be up to date on the latest car safety tips for the smallest passengers on the road.

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car seat safety Maria Sbyotva/Shutterstock
Let's face it: Walking into a car seat section at a baby store is more overwhelming than shopping for a new house. I remember the first time my husband and I attempted to purchase a car seat, and I'm pretty sure it involved hyperventilating and crying. Eventually I calmed him down, but the experience definitely scarred us.

It can be intimidating not only to buy, but to install a car or booster seat for many parents. It's with that in mind that the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have released a social video series called "The Wide World of Car Seats."

This three-video informational series offers a fun, relatable take on child car safety, which starts with choosing the correct car seat for your child's age and size.

Next, it's all about proper installation.

Lastly, parents shouldn't forget that just because a child outgrows riding in a booster seat, that doesn't mean there aren't still important safety considerations to keep in mind.

Next up, we asked Carole Guzzetta, Highway Safety Specialist at NHTSA, for some key safety tips parents should know.

Guzzetta told Parents.com, "The key thing we'd like parents to know with rear-facing seats is that we'd like them to stay rear-facing for as long as possible." According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should remain in rear-facing seats until at least 2 years of age, a position which the NHTSA fully supports. However, Guzzetta says parents can keep kids in rear-facing seats even longer, depending on the specific seat's manufacturer guidelines and the child's size.

At each transition—rear-facing to forward-facing, or from a 5-point harness to a high-back booster—Guzzetta advises parents to have their children "stay as long as possible. The key is for all kids to be restrained," she emphasizes. She offers these additional tips for ensuring your child has the safest ride in town:

  • Make sure the child's head is within an inch below the top of the seat.
  • Rest assured that when kids are rear-facing, it's okay if their legs are bent.
  • Remember it's about fit. Even if an older child is pressuring you to ditch the booster seat, if a seat belt is up around their neck, and not low and tight across their lap when they ride without a booster, it's not time to say so long yet.
  • Make sure all children sit in the backseat of the car until age 13.
  • Register your car seat with the manufacturer. "Should there be a safety recall, that's the only way the manufacturer can reach you," Guzzetta says.
  • Check the installation of your child's car seat periodically, as its attachment to the vehicle can loosen over time. "The rule is the seat should not move more than one inch in any direction," she says.
  • Check that there are no twists in the seat belt, which can affect how tightly secured it is.

You can also get your car seat inspected by a certified inspector nationwide. Find the closest location to you here.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.