Child Car Safety Seats
Child Car Safety Seats
Stephanie Tombrello (Child Passenger Safety Educator & Executive Director, SafetyBeltSafe USA) gives expert video advice on: What qualities should I look for in a child safety seat?; Is it safe to use an old or second-hand child safety seat?; Can I still use a child safety seat after an accident? and more...
What are "child safety seats"?
A child safety seat is a product that is meant to protect children from motor vehicle crashes while they're riding in a motor vehicle. The child safety seat has components that absorb crash forces, and other parts that keep the child in the seat so that the child doesn't fly around the vehicle in a motor vehicle crash. There are several varieties of child safety seat, designed for the different stages and ages of development.
How does a child safety seat protect my child during a car collision?
A lot of safety comes from proper positioning of the safety seat in the car, the harness on the child, and the child in the seat. All of those things that you do ahead of time mean that if you are hit (and usually we don't know we are going to be hit, because would you get in a vehicle if you thought you were going to be in a collision? Of course not.) then your child is protected. You want to have the positioning proper so that all the forces are taken in the right parts of the child's body; so that the forces are absorbed in the frame of the vehicle, to which you are attaching the safety seat. The child safety seat is attached to the car with the safety belt or the LATCH attachment. What the LATCH attachment does is pull the forces into the frame of the vehicle rather than into your child's body. Using a forward-facing seat with a harness, you also want to make sure that whether you're using the LATCH attachments or the safety belt system to hold the seat in, you do attach that top tether strap. That reduces how far forward your child's head will go in a crash. Your child's head is the most important part of that youngster's body. You want to protect that child from brain damage.
What qualities should I look for in a child safety seat?
The most important thing about a child safety seat is that it fits the child, it fits well in the vehicle, and that you'll use it properly. It's important that it fits with the kind of lifestyle you have and your preferences and that you know how to adjust it and work with it. So, those are the big broad categories. Of course you want a crash-tested safety seat. Any safety seat sold in the United States is supposed to be certified to meet the federal standard for crash worthiness. So, as long as you're buying a new seat from a reputable place you shouldn't have a problem about that. The next thing you want to look at is what you are trying to do with this seat. Are you trying to transport a newborn? Do you have an older child who weighs more than 40 lbs, but you want a seat with a full harness? Then, you want to try the seat that you like best in your vehicle. Make sure you can get it in there tightly, and that you can adjust the harness on the child easily. Children grow, or sometimes they're wearing clothing that's a little bit different, so we always want the harness on the child to be as snug as we want your safety belt to be on you when you're travelling in a vehicle.
Is it safe to use an old or second-hand child safety seat?
On the whole, we don't recommend using second-hand seats. Even a seat that comes from a friend or relative has to be looked at very carefully if it's not brand new, out of the box. Safety seats have a lifespan and also, they need to have all their parts and pieces. Sometimes safety seats are given to a person from someone they trust. That person didn't realize that they didn't have the instructions, or there was a recall on the seat, or the seat had been in a collision. So, for all of those reasons, our first recommendation is to get a new seat.
Are regular child seats safer than seats that are also used in strollers?
All safety seats that are certified to meet the federal standard have to meet that standard. So whether they can also be part of a stroller or whether, as with one model, the stroller is built into the safety seat itself, the safety seat must meet the standard. So the question of whether a safety seat is safe enough has to do with whether it meets the federal standard or not.
Do child safety seats need to be replaced after a crash?
SafetyBeltSafeUSA recommends that parents replace a safety seat after it's been involved in a crash. The reason is that one doesn't necessarily see damage that may have occurred to the structure of the safety seat and one doesn't know if there will be a second crash, and perhaps a more serious one. So we like to err on the side of caution with a safety product.
Can I still use a child safety seat after an accident?
The federal government suggests that if there's no damage visible to the child safety seat, if no one was injured in the crash, if the airbag did not deploy and if the door next to the safety seat was not damaged, that one could continue to use the safety seat. However, Safety Belt Safe are a bit more conservative. It is a parental choice. In two states of the United States, there's a state law that requires the responsible insurer to replace the child safety seat after a crash.
Where can I have my child safety seat or booster seat inspected?
Where can I have my child safety seat or booster seat inspected? Many people want to have their safety seats checked by someone who has technical training and we certainly encourage considering that. There's a wide variation in the experience and knowledge of people who are certified as technicians and there is not just one kind of location that we can guarantee will have a safety seat checker. Here are some clues. First of all, you can check the list at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or at SeatCheck.org to see the names and locations of people who are certified -- some of whom will be willing to check your safety seat. Secondly, if you go to someone who is a certified child passenger safety technician, here are some clues that you should expect to see. First of all, the technician should be recording information about your child, your vehicle and your safety seat. Secondly, the person should be using the instructions for the safety seat and the vehicle owner's manual. There are also some products such as a book that has information about a lot of vehicles and the equipment that they have inside to protect children. That is a good reference manual and many technicians will have that. You want to make sure that the person is teaching you about your safety seat and how to install it -- not simply installing the seat for you -- because the idea is that you'll be able to do this correctly and who knows when the next time is that you'll need to remove the safety seat. You want to make sure that the person has a current recall list. We can't tell you what that date will be because we never know. Today, the date on a current recall list might be a particular date. Two days later there might be a new recall. So you want to make sure it's current. Finally, you want to make sure that the person has information for you that is really current and that they're giving you the best suggestions for what the newest information is, not something that was the recommendation two or three years ago.