7 Car Seat Rules To Keep Your Baby Safe

infant car seat safety

There are so many car seats to choose from and buying just the right one can be
overwhelming.

A car seat is however perhaps the most important purchase you will make. If you are the kind of person who is conscious of budgets, cut costs on other baby items like swings, fancy cribs, etc. A car seat can and will save your child’s life. We hope these 7 rules to buying a car seat will help 🙂

You don’t need a pretty car seat; you need a safe car seat.


A car seat may look nice, but if your child does not fit in it, it will not keep them safe. The car seat may even out them at more risk. When it comes to travel systems, most car seats will fit with different strollers. A stroller and car seat are separate purchases (but you do need to consider compatibility).

Always try the seat out before you buy, or make sure you can return it.

Try the car seat out before you buy it or ensure that you can return it. The only way to know that a car seat fits is to try it. You can call the store ahead of time and ask if they will let you test the seat. If you buy a car seat online, be sure that you understand their return policy and that it works for you.

Buy a new car seat

If you are not clear on whether the car seat has been recalled, expired or if it is generally in good condition, just get a new car seat. Only buy a used car seat from someone you would trust with your child’s life.

If it didn’t come with car seat, you don’t need it.

car seat toys
All those cute toys and add-ons are potentially dangerous. They also take away any liability from car insurers should the seat fail you. These toys are considered illegal in most states. So when it comes to toys, pillows and add-ons don’t waste your money.

Always Read the Manual.


The manual is your car seat bible. All the questions you have about the car seat are answered in the manual. Go through it before you buy the seat and keep it for reference. Should you misplace it, call the manufacturer, order a new one or get an online version.

The best car seat install is the safest.


The seat belt isn’t safer than LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) and vice versa. That said, you can’t use both at the same time. The middle of the backseat is generally safer than the sides. Where and how you get the best install will determine the safest install for your car seat.

Ask a CPST for help with a proper install


Call 1-866- SEAT-CHECK or visit safekids.org to find a certified technician. The manufacturers number is always on the manual so you can call them as well. When in doubt about anything, always ask for help.

Car Seat Safety Challenges In Summer

The summer heat will often mean that your car and its occupants will often be too hot.

Your little ones just like you, could get burned by a hot strap or buckle. Keeping your
children cool in the car is one thing that may need a little creativity on your part.

We have some tips and tricks for you that may help keep everyone safe and cool in
your car during the summer.

Put the car in the garage if you have one. Also try as much as possible to leave
windows slightly open. This may not help much, but letting any heat out of the car
always helps.

Cover your windshield from the inside with a sun shade. Avoid using the ones that
have suction cups or a solid bar. These may cause serious injury during an accident
should your head hit the window.

Always feel the buckles and the car seat itself to check if they are too hot. Use a
towel to transfer the heat from the buckle or let the car air out for a few minutes. Do not put your child in a hot car seat as they can be easily burned.

Frozen ice packs can also be used to cool the buckles or a seat that it regularly warm. You can get a “Cold Seat” product that you freeze and put on the car seat to cool it.

Things do get a bit trickier once you hit the road. Obviously your car a/c (if it works)
should be able to cool you and the kids off.

Also, give your children lots of water or drinks with ice in them. Keeping water bottles with you 24/7 may be a good idea.

Older kids can be given a spray bottle to mist themselves and their younger siblings (or you could just do it yourself at a stop).

You could even get some of those soft foam fans for extra cooling if you don’t have a/c.

What other tips do you have for keeping your kids cool in the car?

Booster Car Seat Myths Debunked

Caregiver knowledge and state laws on child passenger safety have evolved slowly. However more parents and guardians now realize that kids need to ride in booster car seats for much longer than anticipated.  There are numerous oppositions to proper booster use and we would like to put a rest to some of these myths.

#1: I can move my child to a booster when they reach the height and weight requirements of the booster seat.

FALSE! Your kid may meet the height and weight requirement for a booster but at the age of 3, he is just not ready. Just because your child meets the booster seat’s height and weight limits, doesn’t mean they’re ready to use one.

Your child should be at least 5 years old. This would mean that they are also mature enough to always sit calmly. Some parents will transition their children into  a booster seat by driving for short distances in a booster seat at 5 years old. Most kids will need to still use convertible car seat till they reach about 6 or 7 years of age.

Despite what state law says, check to see how well the seat belt fits your baby.

#2 : State laws say it’s OK for my kid to ride in a car without a booster seat at age 8 so it must be safe.

FALSE! State laws will vary greatly. Some states will let a child ride without a booster car seat at 5 years while other states insist that a 10 year old is not tall enough to ride without a booster seat .

Children will require a booster seat until the ages of 10 to 12 and they must also pass the 5 step test.  Kids under 10 are not ready to ride without a booster seat because their bones are not strong enough to handle the force of a crash.

#3 : My toddler is too big to use a booster car seat.

The 5-step booster car seat test

FALSE! Even big kids can still use a booster until they pass the 5 step test. There are so many plenty of seats available for big kids, but these kids might find a high 0back booster to be more comfortable.

#4 : High back booster car seats are safer than a backless booster car seats.

 

FALSE! There are no clear safety advantages to having a high back booster in the frontal crash tests. You may need a high back booster or a harness  if :

  • Your child slumps when sleeping
  • Your child is unable to sit properly in a backless booster.
  • Your child does not fit the shoulder belt.

Additionally, some high back boosters need the head rest behind them for support. Please read your manual and check what yours needs.

#5 : I do not need a head rest if I am using a high back booster.

FALSE! A high back booster may be necessary for cars with low back seats. Not all of them can be used safely without a head support. Some car seat manufacturers (like Diono and Dorel) will need head support for their car high back and backless sears.

As always, ensure you read your booster car seat manual to know exactly what to do and what not to do for your seat.

#6: I cannot use lower anchors with my booster seat.

FALSE! Most boosters will come with an added feature of a lower anchor. Many combination seats continue to use the lower anchors when they are turned into a booster.

The lower anchors remove the need to fasten the booster when it is not being used so that it does not become a projectile in the event of a crash. There are no weight limitations with a booster that uses lower anchors. This is because the seat belt does all the difficult work of restraining the child during impact.

One more benefit of a booster with lower anchors is that they fasten the seat in place thus making it easier for some kids to buckle themselves in.

#7 : You do not need to replace a booster after a crash.

FALSE! Only in instances where the manufacturer has clearly adhered to the NHTSA re-use guidelines, all  car seats should be replaced after a crash. A booster car seat that has been in an accident may not be able to protect your child against the impact of a crash.

Many boosters require replacement even after minor crashes

#8 : Short adults also need boosters.

FALSE! Short adults have adult bones. This means your iliac crest has formed adequately and is able to keep your lap belt down on your pelvis well.

Always remember to wear your car’s belt the right way. Ensure it’s tight and is placed low against your lap and across your shoulder.

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We hope that The Car Seat Nerd has answered all your questions about booster car seats 🙂

Registering your car seat

Car seats just like any other products are subject to recalls.  Many times, recalls are not complicated. They may involve an updated manual or a new label. Should this be the case, the car seat is safe to use.

The only way a car seat manufacturer can get in touch with you is if you have registered your car seat with them.

Registering your car seat is quite easy. A new car seat will come with a registration card. This should be filled out and sent. Registration is also easy on the internet. Safercar.gov offers a link that connects car seat registrations among numerous manufacturers. This means that you can register without the worry of loosing your card.

You can also register your car seat by Calling the manufacturer. Most Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs) have generic forms at hand to be filled in order to register the car seat.  This is quite useful especially if you are not sure who to send the form to.

What Information is required?

Here is what you need to fill out on the registration card (If it already does not have a label with all the car seat’s details)

  1. Model name
  2. Date of manufacture
  3. Manufacturer name
  4. Model number

The parent company will sometimes have a different name from the name on the car seat. For example: Parent company, Dorel has Cosco, Maxi-Cosi and Cosi. This means that the manufacturer name listed on the car seat sticker is not the same as the name on the front of the car seat.

The information that you need to register your car seat (as mentioned above) will be found on the bottom or the side of the car seat.  There may also be a copy of this sticker on the registration card.

Email alerts from Safercar.gov can keep you updated on recalls that have not been processed (not just the ones you have registered).

 

We hope that The Car Seat Nerd will help you register your kid’s car seats and booster seats. This way, you are aware of any or all recalls as well as any urgent fixes.

12 Car Seat Safety Mistakes You May Be Making

Using a car seat does not ensure your child’s safety. Car seats are intended to keep your young one safe, but if not used correctly, your child’s safety may be compromised.  Various mistakes during use like incorrect use of the harness, loose car seat installation, washing car seat straps or putting your child forward facing too soon can be deadly mistakes in the event of an accident.

So are you making these very common but potentially fatal car seat safety mistakes?

Mistake #1: Positioning The Chest Clip Incorrectly

A recent survey by our friends at NHTSA cited incorrect positioning of the chest clip as one of the most common mistakes parents made when using car seats. It is also the easiest one to fix.  Parents will put the chest clip together but often fail to position it correctly. If the chest clip is left too low (most times at the abdomen), your child’s harness straps may slide off their shoulders making it likely that they may be ejected from their car seat during and accident.  A poorly positioned chest clip may also cause internal bleeding. This is because the abdomen area is not as protected as the chest area (by the ribcage).

What can a parent do to fix this?: Make sure that chest clips are in line with your young one’s armpits. By doing this you ensure that the chest clips are on the chest.

Mistake # 2 : Unfastened Car Seat Installation.

Another mistake pointed out by NHTSA is loose installation.  This is the number one mistake made by parents according to car seat inspectors. You can use your own car seat belts to secure the car seat, but car seats come complete with LATCH system equipment and tethers to assist with correct installation.

A car seat that moves even slightly is more dangerous in an accident as the impact of the collision can shake your child terribly causing serious injury to their head or face should the car seat crash into the front seat.

What can parents do to fix this? : Confirm that the car seat can only move less than an inch.  Use the LATCH system if your car has it and fasten the top tether as tightly as is possible.  When using a seatbelt, tighten it as much as you can. You can use the weight of your arm or knee to depress it. This will also ensure that you better secure the LATCH system seat.  Make sure you lock the seat belt. DO NOT use the seat belt and LATCH together.  Using both the LATCH and seatbelt can be dangerous and does not in any way add to the safety of your child. Using both my in fact transfer too much impact to the plastic causing it to break or to your child.

Mistake #3: Loosely Secured Harness

It goes without saying that a loose harness is unsafe. It is suggested by the NHTSA that there should be no slack between a child and the harness. However, parents many times leave two or more inches of slack and this could be potentially fatal in the event of a collision.

A loose harness means that a child is at risk of movement and even ejection from the car seat. Fatal injury and even death is a possibility should the child hit another passenger or any part of the car’s interior or is ejected from the car altogether. Even if the child does not come out of the car seat, excessive shaking can cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.

You should however be careful that they harness is not too tight. The straps are made to have some give so that they can accommodate the energy from a crash. If the seat is too constricted, the force from the crash will be transferred to the child.

What can parents do to fix this?.

The Car Seat Nerd recommends that you should fasten harness straps as much as they can withstand without compromising safety. Just be careful that the straps are not too tight.

Mistake #4:  Improper Harness Slots

Car seats have adjustable straps because they are made to grow with the child. For a rear facing car seat, the harness should be at or just below the child’s shoulder.

Forward facing seats should have their harness slots at or above the child’s shoulders. The straps may be moved as your child grows.  Improper use of the harness slots is a risk to your child. They may not be as secure in an accident.

What can parents do to fix this ?

Check your child’s car seat frequently to ensure that you are using the right slot. Confirm that for a rear facing the harness are at or just below the shoulders and at or just above the shoulders for a front facing seat.

Mistake #5 : Improper Seat Belt Placement

It may become increasingly difficult to ensure proper placement and use of the seat belt as children move to booster seats.  To make sure that seat belts are placed correctly, belt-positioning boosters can assist if they fit and are used accurately.

It may become increasingly difficult to ensure proper placement and use of the seat belt as children move to booster seats.  To make sure that seat belts are placed correctly, belt-positioning boosters can assist if they fit and are used accurately.

A child will not be restrained in a collision with a wrongly placed lap belt.  This may cause abdominal injury should their hips slide under the lap belt. A shoulder belt that is used wrongly can cause forward movement or cause injury to the neck and face.

What can parents do to fix this ? : You need to ensure that the lap belt fits well across your child’s upper thigh, it should not be on the tummy. Shoulder belts should fit well across the shoulder and chest evading the neck and face.

Mistake # 6:  Using a Used or Expired Car Seat

Because car seats are made to last and safeguard your child for year, many families tend to use the same car seat for more than one child. Car seats are often safe to use for over five years. However, expiration dates must be noted and respected.

Worn car seats are also not safe and may not safeguard your child as they were designed to. Seat belts can fray or wear over time causing them to open or break during a crash. Belts may also loosen and make it hard to fit safely.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Find out the expiration date of the car seat. You will find it directly under the seat where your child’s legs rest. The expiration date may also be found on a sticker. If you can’t find any sticker, look for the molding under the car seat. It is also not wise to buy a used car seat especially from someone you do not know or from a thrift store. A used car seat may have been involved in a car accident and may have some unseen damage. You need to know the seat’s full history before you even consider purchasing or borrowing it. If the seat was involved in a crash, please call the manufacturer for clarification on recommendations on whether it may be used or not.

Mistake #7: Transitioning to Forward Facing Car Seats Too Early

The law in many states allows for children who are a year old and at least 20 pounds to use a forward facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics  however suggests that children remain in  a rear facing position until they are at least two or when they can no longer fit in their rear facing car seat.

This recommendation has been made by the AAP because the rear facing position is much safer than the forward facing position. Putting a child forward facing too soon carries the risk of head and spinal injuries.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Have your child in a rear facing position for as long as possible. This means that you will have to wait until they get to the top limit weight or height allowed by the manufacturer. If their legs seemed cramped experts insist that kids are more comfy like this and are better protected from leg injuries.

Mistake #8 : Having a Child in a Car Seat in Heavy Winter Coats

Winter coats are a hazard when your kid is in a car seat. Heavy and filled coats leave plenty of space between your child and the harness straps.

Compression of heavy coats during a crash can be fatal , causing your child to be thrown around and possibly ejected.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:Do not use heavy coats in the car. Your children should not wear more layers in their car seat than they would indoors. If they are not warm enough you may out their arms through their coat backwards over the harness and not under it.  Younger kids can have a blankie tucked around the straps.

Mistake #9: Use of Aftermarket Products/ Accessories

Bundle sets , mirrors , harness covers , toys that strap on or any other accessories designed to make your baby’s ride more fun and comfy may not be safe. These items can be found in any local baby store. According to Doucher , “ Always remember that anything that cannot be strapped down becomes projectile in the event of a crash”. Doucher insists that if you would not throw it at your child at 30mph , do not have it unstrapped in the car.  Anything that did not come as part of the car seat must be avoided for the safety of your child and the effectiveness of the car seat.

Some accessories like infant inserts that have not been provided by the manufacturer will make the car seat less safe by allowing for extra space and compression during an accident. Using these inserts can also void your warranty, as car seats are not tested for safety with aftermarket products in them. Mirrors and toys can easily become hazardous projectiles in a collision.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:

They should simply not be used. It is a risk to your child’s safety to use anything that was not originally included with your car seat.  Only use strap covers and inserts that were provided by the manufacturer. These have been tested for safety and can be trusted.

Mistake #10: Using the Wrong Car Seat

A car seat is only safe if it is in the correct position and fits well. Having your child in a car seat that is too big or too small is dangerous.  Parents often move children to the next car seat way too soon. Preschoolers are most at risk of being moved up to a booster seat too soon as parents feel that they are ready as soon as they turn 4. It is only safe to move a child to a booster seat when he has attained the maximum height and weight allowed for their seat. The same also applies for older kids who may not be big enough to move out of a booster seat just yet.

The wrong car seat for your child is hazardous as it will not keep your child as safe as the correct car seat. Ineffective straps or incorrect positioning may also cause your child to be shaken on ejected during a crash.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Check with the manufacturer if your child is in the right car seat. You should know the weight and height limits for your child and their car seat. This will give you an indication if you can move them to the next seat or not.  To find out more about car seat recommendations for your child, visit  SaferCar.gov

Mistake #11: Placing an Infant in a Wrong Angle

Infant car seats do not just fit right into the base. An infant should be put in a 45-degree angle for their safety. Most car seats will have a recline indicator that show is the seat has been placed properly or not.

Placing your infant at the wring angle is dangerous, as they still do not have neck control. If their head rolls or they are unable to keep their head up, or their head rolls up on their chest, their airway may become blocked.  A seat that is also too reclined is hazardous.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: You need to ensure that your car seat is in the proper and safe angle at all times. The safest angle for infants is 45 degrees rear facing.

Mistake # 12 : Washing straps

As gross as car seat straps may get with food , drool , spitup and dirty little hands , washing them may cause weakening  and stretching in an accident. Detergents may also strip the straps of their flame retardant.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:

A regular wipe down of the straps with a damp cloth or baby wipes will do. There is no need to out them in your washer or soak them in water or any cleaner.

Here are a few resources The Car Seat Nerd recommends for more information on the safe us of car seats.