We were surprised about some of the items on this list of things everyone should know about car seats:
1. Car seats have an expiration date. Most car seats expire after 5-8 years. Check your car seat manual for the expiration date. Car seats are made of plastic, which becomes less effective over time when exposed to normal wear and tear, changing weather conditions, and car accidents.
2. If there’s been a crash, the car seat most likely needs replacing. The vast majority of car seat manufacturers recommend replacing the seat as soon as it has been in an accident. This applies whether the child was in the seat during the accident or not. Again, the plastic in most car seats is not designed to withstand multiple impacts.
3. Stay rear-facing as long as possible. It is now recommended that your child stay rear-facing until age 2 and possibly even longer if they still meet the rear-facing criteria for your car seat.
5. Make sure the car seat straps fit your child properly. Many parents make the mistake of keeping the straps too loose when buckling the child into his/her seat. The straps need to fit snuggly and securely. In an infant seat, the chest buckle should remain at the child’s armpit level and there should not be slack in the straps.
6. Abide by the weight and height limits in convertible seats. Many seats are convertible with individual weight and height restrictions for each configuration. Keep these limits in mind when transitioning your child from one configuration to the next.
7. The center seat is generally the safest position for the child. To avoid a direct impact, it is generally recommended that a car seat be installed in the center rear seat of a vehicle. However, it’s more important that the car seat be installed properly. Depending on the make and model of your car, the spacing of the LATCH system may not accommodate a center car seat. As always, read your vehicle manual and your car seat manual to know whether your car and car seat are rear center seat compatible.
8. Avoid storing loose items in your car. Loose items become projectiles in the event of an impact. To avoid harming your child, it’s best to store loose items in the trunk of the vehicle or to properly secure them.
9. General vehicle safety still applies. The safest way to keep your child safe in a vehicle is to do your part in avoiding an accident altogether. Avoid driving while distracted and be a defensive driver.