IS YOUR CAR SEAT READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
The last leg of the year is upon us and the holiday season is right around the corner. Before the holidays start, now is a good time to check that your car seats are the correct size for your children and safe for use.
Although the holidays are filled with cheer and merriment, a time with family and friends, it is also a time when our roads are the most deadly. As much as it is a time for rest and relaxation, one should never relax when it comes to road safety. Especially when it comes to the safety of our children.
Here is a list of ten things to ensure your car seat is ready for the festive season.
THE RIGHT SEAT
Children have a tendency to get bigger at lightning speed. Anyone with young children knows the pain of having to buy new clothes almost seasonally as their young ones outgrow everything. The same is true of their car seats.
It is very important that your child’s car seats are the correct size and type for their developmental stage. Infants, toddlers and young children all have different requirements for their developmental stages and it is vital that their car seat caters to these needs. An incorrect car seat for their age, size and weight could result in serious injury or death in the event of a crash.
This is a great time to check whether your car seat is still suitable for your child’s developmental stage. We have these useful infographics and this article to help you to determine whether it’s suitable. If you are still unsure, get in contact with Wheel Well and we will be happy to help you.
THE RIGHT PLACE
The safest place for your child to be in a vehicle is in the backseat. This is true up until at least age 13 years. Should they be flung from their harness in a collision while seated in the back, the seat in front of them will better prevent them from going through the windshield. In the front seat, the impact of the airbag deploying could cause them serious injury and even death if they are in a car seat. The backseat is again safer for this reason.
THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The topic of rear-facing car seats is something we have covered several times before. Ultimately, you want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible – usually up until 15 months. Due to an infant or toddler having a more fragile body and bone structure, they need more support. In a forward-facing seat a collision may cause their head to be flung forward with enormous force. This can result in death on account of their still-developing neck and head. By rear-facing their car seat, the backrest provides better support against the momentum of a car crash.
THE INSTALLATION INCH TEST
When installing a car seat, correct installation is vital. Ensure that you have followed the car seat manual to the letter to make sure it is safe and secure. Once you have the car seat installed, give it a firm shake. Try to move it from side to side, and then backwards and forwards. If your car seat is safely and correctly installed, it should not move more than an inch (2.5cm) in any direction. Regularly check this to ensure that it remains true.
THE PINCH TEST
Once your car seat is secure, the next thing to check is whether the harnesses are snug. Firstly check that the harness straps are correctly slotted through the car seat in compliance with the manual.
Once your child is securely buckled up in their seat, make sure the straps are not too tight. This can cause a lot of discomfort and even injury. It is even more important to ensure that the straps are not too loose. Loose straps could render the car seat ineffective if your child is able to slip out. Try and pinch the straps – if you’re able to pinch any excess webbing then they are too loose and should be tightened.
When positioning the harness on a rear-facing car seat, the harness should be slightly below the shoulder. On a forward-facing car seat, check that the harness is slightly above the shoulder.
TWISTED HARNESS CHECK
When strapping your little one in, run your fingers along the harness straps to ensure that they are not twisted. Not only is this uncomfortable for your child, but it can also interfere with ensuring that the straps are properly tightened. A twisted harness can also cause extra bruising and injury in a collision.
PASSENGER SEAT & AIRBAG
If you have no other alternative than to place your child’s car seat on the front passenger seat, remember to deactivate the airbag. The force at which an airbag deploys, while potentially saving the life of an adult, can be fatal to a child. This is especially true of a rear-facing car seat which could propel a young child face-first into the seat with incredible impact on their heads, neck and spine. We never recommend rear-facing a car seat in the passenger seat for this reason.
If your child is likely to fall asleep or you notice them starting to nod off, put the car seat into the reclined position. Place a small neck cushion or else a rolled up cloth or towel under their chin. This will help them to breathe freely. On the inverse, do not put a cushion or similar behind their heads as this will tilt their heads too far forward, causing discomfort and potentially hindering their breathing.
Long car journeys can be taxing even on an adult, let alone a child. Especially with the excitement of a fun holiday at the end of a trip, children are often energetic and can grow quickly tired of the confines of a car. When they sleep in a car seat, they also do not get the same good quality sleep as they would in a bed. This can result in slightly lower blood oxygen levels and a child that may be a bit more grumpy than usual. When travelling with children, plan to stop every two hours or 200km in order for them to stretch their legs and expel some energy.
Thankfully there are many petrol stations along the major highways that have jungle gyms and kiddie play areas. If you are travelling off the beaten track and don’t have access to these facilities, take a little walk with the children away from the roads to get blood and oxygen flowing again. This will make for a more comfortable trip for everyone.
TOYS, SNACKS & ENTERTAINMENT
For many children, the excitement of getting in the car and setting off on holiday can wear off quickly. It’s best to be prepared for potentially having some bored and restless little passengers. Unless you are fortunate to have a quiet “car-sleeper”, have some toys and snacks on hand. Avoid snacks that might have a high sugar content because the last thing you want is a hyperactive child going wild in the back seat.
If they are playing with toys, let them play with one toy at a time. You don’t want them to get bored of everything all at once, but more importantly it is good to pack away any unnecessary toys that could be flung around in a crash.
A tablet with some movies or audiobooks can keep them entertained for long periods of time. Alternatively, playing some interactive car games with them (such as the classic “I Spy”) will also help stave off the all too familiar “Are we there yet?”.
Next month we will be looking at some general tips for anyone travelling on the road over the festive season. Otherwise, we wish you and your family safe travels and a fantastic festive season.
Once again, should you have any further questions or need any help getting your car seat ready for the holidays, Wheel Well is always happy to provide advice. Please get in contact here.