We all know I'm a freak, okay. And it baffles my mind that just a few short decades ago there was nothing, absolutely nothing to protect kids or keep babies safe while riding in cars. There are even many reports about babies being thrown off of horse-drawn wagons and getting trampled when the horses spooked. Eek.
But, lately I've been watching way too much Teen Mom on MTV and I cringe and yell at the tv every time. Why? Because these, obviously very young moms, haven't a clue about car seats. They are always tipping sideways when they turn the corners. The straps are falling off their shoulders, the clips are never high enough up, on and on. I've also seen way too many babies and kids not properly restrained, while driving around, in parking lots, everywhere I go. It's sad. Kevin rolls his eyes but, being safe in a car is high on my priority list.
Even though I am a safe, defensive driver, and for the sake of jinxing myself, let's just say I have a spotless record for now. But, I know it's not just me. I know that all it takes is someone else's mistake, or slow foot, or lead foot even, to cause an accident and possibly take a life. So, I am a fanatic about making sure my seats are installed properly and so are my kids, EVERY TIME.
It's a freaking pain putting two kids into their seats, loosening the straps, buckling them, arranging their coats and then tightening the straps again. But it's worth it. I'm sorry, would you rather your kid was "comfy" and in there fast and went through your windshield or would you rather he was a little crabby and safe and secure, not budging an inch when someone rear-ends you in the snow? That's what I thought. It only takes one second, one bump and that baby can fly through the windshield if those straps aren't tight enough.
Speaking of windshield...most babies shouldn't even be facing the windshield. Pediatricians, car manufacturers and car seat makers are all recommending that children remain rear-facing until 35-40lbs. This started becoming popular after I turned Kian to forward facing and I seriously considered turning him back around, but didn't know enough about it yet. With Karter, he will be staying RF (rear-facing) until he reaches the limit of our car seat at 35lbs. With him, that could be awhile, that could mean age 3 for him or more as he's so tiny now. Links to follow at the end for all this information.
The other thing that is now being recommended is that you keep your child in a harness, buckled, as long as possible forward-facing (FF). That means they don't want your child in a seat belt or a seat-belt booster once they hit 35 lbs, or the limit for the FF seat. I've been researching this because Kian is almost at the limit for his FF seat. Usually, you'd just pull the seat belt over and use it as a booster. Several things came to mind: 1. My child isn't mature enough to stay seated safely and not try to get out of the seat belt or tuck it behind him, and 2.how is that really safe for a small 3 yr old? among other things. So, I found a seat that you can keep the child buckled until 65 lbs. Going to go buy it soon, and it then turns into a high-back booster or a backless booster-Graco's Nautilus. This will give me peace of mind that my child is still properly buckled in and not pulling out of a seat belt for at least another 2 years and will last me until he's outgrown the need for a car seat.
But, having the proper seat means nothing if you don't install it right AND you're child's not buckled in properly. Each seat is different for installation, but basically rule of thumb is that it should not move more than ONE INCH to either side or up and down. I actually sit, or kneel with both knees in the seats and pull them as tight as possible, or have Kevin pull it tighter. Using the proper latch systems, etc. There should be NO PLAY in the seats. All that movement you see on Teen Moms is terrible installation and just asking for injuries.
Once that's accomplished your child should be buckled in tightly. How tightly? You should only be able to get one finger between the buckle straps and your child's body. Every time. Second, the chest clip is just that- a CHEST clip. I wonder about all the people who say their kids can take the straps off their arms. If the chest clip is up where it should be, by the collarbone, touching the armpits, then the child would not be able to get the strap off. Each time I put each child in, I buckle them and then pull up the chest clip and tighten the straps. Every time. Pain in the butt? You betcha. Time-consuming? Definitely. But, what's worth more? You're time and convenience or your child's life?
I tried a few times to get to car seat inspection but never was able to with Kian. By the time Karter came around I had read enough and used several seats that I felt capable but still researched the best positions for each seat, especially when having more than one seat in a car, etc. You can find inspection sites: check here for one near you.
General, quick info.
National Transportation gov site
Test your car seat smarts here.