Car Seat and Passenger Safety

Before taking your newborn home from the hospital, make sure you already have a government-approved infant car seat professionally (properly) installed in your car. The car seat should be placed so that the infant is facing backwards. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until at least the age of two years, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Infants and children under age twelve should never sit in the front passenger seat of cars equipped with air bags, even if he or she is in a car seat. The explosive impact from a deployed passenger side air bag can seriously injure a child.

When installing a car seat for the first time, make sure that this is done as per the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it fits well into your car. Not all car seats fit all models of cars. Also read the section on car seats in your car’s owner manual; it may help you ensure that the installation is done properly. It is important to keep the car seat instructions, as you will need them to adjust the seat as your baby grows. Once properly adjusted, your child’s seat harness should be snug, but not too tight; you should be able to fit the width of two fingers between the child and the harness. The buckle should be chest-high.

Contact the manufacturer to ensure that there are no recalls of the model you purchased. It is also useful to fill out and send in your registration card to the manufacturer, as it will be important in case your car seat is recalled. A new car seat is more likely to meet the current standards and be of a far better design than most second-hand or handme-down seats—especially those more than two-years old. Older car seats are unlikely to adhere to today’s safety requirements. Also, a lot of people do not realize if the car seat has been in a car crash, and looks right, it may have been weakened, and therefore should not be used.

Use the car seat at all times while out driving. Never try holding your child in your arms. During rapid braking at just thirty miles per hour, a ten-pound baby in your arms will seem to weigh more than two hundred pounds and you won’t be able to hold on. Using a properly sized, installed, and adjusted car seat every time you take your child for a ride is certainly your best bet.

Please note that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. They recommend to dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around him over the buckled harness straps if needed. The reason is that the harness may appear to be tight when in reality it is looser because there is too much space between a puffy or bulky coat and the baby.

 Which brand or make of car seats is the best?

There really is no one seat that is the best or safest. The best car seat is the one that fits your baby’s size and weight, and can be correctly installed in your car. So it would be important to try before you buy. If possible, put your child in it to see if it is the proper size and make sure it fits into your car. It is important to know that an improperly installed or an unsafe car seat can result in severe injury in case of an accident. For more specific information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics article on “Car Seats: Information for Families”.

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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.