Two articles have been running through my mommy Facebook world lately that are very informative on carseat safety. 11 Deadly Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making and its sequel 8 More Deadly Car Seat Mistakes is a must read and will surely get us parents thinking.
Some of the important facts of car seats are as follows:
1) The chest clip must be ON the chest, level with the arm pits. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen moms post photos of their children in car seats with the chest clip right above the buckle, sitting on their tummy. That will do nothing in the event of a car accident. Accidents don't always happen, but the point of a car seat is to protect your child should one occur.
3) The straps should be snug, and not able to be pinched. The baby's shoulders shouldn't be able to slide out of them.
4) You should not use any snow suits or heavy coats in a car seat. The safety belts are stationary and do not tighten back like adults do. The amount of strap you would have to loosen to accommodate a snow suit or heavy coat will loosen the straps too much. They may seem snug because of the large coat, but in an accident the compression of force will thrust the child against the straps, the coat will flatten, and the child can be ejected from the seat. Most car seat manuals warn against this. To keep our baby warm, my husband and I use a car seat cover that wraps OVER the already buckled in baby, and we bundle her with blankets, again, after she is strapped in and secured. She is happy and perfectly toasty! Plus, once the car is warm we can take off how ever many layers to ensure her comfort.
6) It is not safe to use "after market" products in the car seat, such as strap cushions, or fluffy covers that go UNDER the child (same reason as a fluffy coat or snowsuit, compression in a collision). Most aftermarket products actually void your warranty as well, another disadvantage. Use only the head rest that came with your seat. If your baby is a newborn or small and you are worried about a floppy head, receiving blankets can be rolled and placed on either side of the baby's head between them and the seat for extra sturdiness. This is safe because it does not compromise the safety or tightness of the straps.
7) Rear face as long as you can. Most parents start to forward face the carseat around a year of age, but there are more benefits to rear facing than forward facing should you be involved in an accident. As this article from NBC news states, "When a child is placed in a rear-facing seat there is less chance of trauma to the highly vulnerable neck and head areas during the most common crashes. Arbogast notes, too, that even older children — up to age 12 — still haven’t fully developed. They — along with adult passengers — would also probably be safer sitting rear-facing. Of course, this isn’t feasible. Adults and older children won’t do it or they can’t because the car seats won’t allow it. So the question safety experts are trying to answer now is how long we can get our very youngest children to do it." And... "When I talk to parents some feel that the bigger children are more at risk for leg injuries because their legs are bunched up. But that concern has never been borne out in the data,” says Arbogast. “Besides, remember, the risks you’re trying to prevent by keeping a child rear-facing are head and spinal injuries.” Broken legs are easy fixes compared to the other injuries, she notes."
8) You should not buy used car seats. Unbeknownst to many, car seats have expiration dates, and should not be used again after involvement in an accident. You can never be sure if you buy used. A great resource on car seat safety is The Car Lady is a great resource, and in this link on reusing car seats offers some good perspective.
These are just some of the topics to hit on this subject, and as always, I encourage you to read more! I am including more links at the bottom of this post. Happy researching!