No piece of baby safety gear is more important than a car seat. The experts at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association tell you what to look for when choosing a car seat—and how to make sure you're installing and using it correctly.
September is Baby Safety Month, and as part of our Expert Series, our partners at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) are joining us to share their expert advice on choosing and safely using the baby products you’ll need for your growing family. As the voice of the industry on quality and safety for baby and children’s products, for more than 40 years JPMA has helped parents feel confident in choosing safe products for their babies and children.
A baby’s first ride home from the hospital is a significant milestone for new parents. Everything is heightened: Parents are suddenly more acutely aware of how fast they’re going and how others are driving. Knowing your precious new baby in the back is buckled in securely and correctly brings peace of mind.
Few pieces of baby gear get as much consideration as a car seat when parents are deciding which one to register for—and with good reason! Car accidents are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by as much as 71 percent, and they are required safety devices in all U.S. states and territories (learn about child safety laws in your state).
But four out of five parents make errors in selecting, installing, or using car seats. In order to fully provide protection for baby, car seats need to be selected, installed, and used according to the instructions. Parents should also follow their vehicle owner’s manual.
As part of Baby Safety Month in September, JPMA offers parents actionable safety tips to safely navigate through early childhood. While these tips are not substitutes for carefully following the instructions, they can help point you in the right direction.
Here are three important baby car seat tips keep in mind before using your car seat for the first time:
Register Your Car Seat
In the excitement of getting the car seat out of the box, it can be easy to overlook some crucial paperwork, including the registration card. Only a small minority of car seats are registered in the U.S., which means that the majority of users cannot be reached with important safety information or recalls. Don’t worry about being added to a marketing list; laws protect that information, so you will only be contacted if the manufacturer has a recall or if there’s a safety campaign.
Another reason to register your car seat is to help ensure that your car seat is from a trusted vendor and meets the stringent performance standards. The number of noncompliant, unregulated, and counterfeit car seats being sold online has significantly increased in recent years, and many don’t come with registration cards. So make sure you buy a car seat from a trusted vendor and register it with the original manufacturer.
Read and Follow the Instructions and Labels
Two more important items included in the box are the instruction book and the labels attached to the car seat itself. Both the instructions and labels show the weight and height ranges of the car seat, each mode of use, and easy-to-follow diagrams on how to install the car seat and secure your child correctly. They also include manufacturer information in case you need to contact them with questions. Some manufacturers have even added video customer service and virtual car seat checks to support parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, when access to physical car seat checks is limited.
If parents need additional help choosing the right car seat, installing it correctly, securing their children, or following the instructions, expert help is available at www.jpma.org/CPSWeek2020. There are also 43,000 Child Passenger Safety Technicians across the country to help parents use their car seats correctly, and many local areas have permanent or rotating car seat inspection stations that operate by appointment or during advertised hours. A listing of local and virtual technician services can be found here.
Be Aware of Common Errors
While there are common errors that parents make when putting the seat in the car for the first time, the proper way to install a car seat varies by car seat model, vehicle model, attachment hardware, and even vehicle seating position, so it’s important to follow the instructions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, NHTSA, and JPMA all recommend delaying transitioning into the next car seat until your child’s maximum height or weight for the previous version has been reached. That means ride rear-facing as long as the instructions allow, followed by forward-facing until reaching the height and weight limit.
For forward-facing car seats, another important item that’s often overlooked is the top tether, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of head injury. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to learn about the appropriate tether anchor, and follow the car seat instructions for attaching and using it. Harness height is also important to crash protection. In general, the tops of rear-facing harnesses should be positioned at or slightly below the tops of your child’s shoulders, and for forward-facing harnesses, the tops should be at or slightly above the tops of your child’s shoulders.
When it’s time for a booster seat, make sure the vehicle lap belt is snugly positioned on your child’s lower hips and touching their thighs. The shoulder belt must be snug across your child’s chest and collarbone and never placed behind their back, under arms, or off the shoulder. A booster should be used until the vehicle belts fit correctly.
For additional car seat safety information, as well as general baby safety tips, visit www.jpma.org.
Product Ideas for Car Seat Safety
Below are a few car seats and related products that were selected as finalists and winners from the JPMA Innovation Awards in 2020.
JPMA’s 2020 Innovation Award Winner for Car Seat
Cybex Sirona S SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat | buybuy BABY
JPMA’s 2020 Innovation Award Finalists for Car Seat
Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat | Target
Britax® B-Free Premium Travel System with Endeavours® Infant Car Seat | buybuy BABY
BubbleBum Travel Booster Car Seat | Walmart
Carfoldio Ltd. Hifold Fit-and-Fold Booster Seat | Amazon
Diono® radian® 3RXT All-In-One Car Seat | buybuy BABY
Maxi-Cosi Coral XP Infant Car Seat | PishPoshBaby
Safe Traffic System Ride Safer Travel Vest | Amazon
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