When you are a new parent, choosing the right car seat for your child can be stressful. Today, there are so many options available to all of us. Once you finally find the perfect one for your infant, you would think you could finally relax on this one topic, but that's not actually the case. Finding the right car seat is just the first step. Making sure to adapt the car seat through your baby's seasons of growth is the next, continuous step. Having the knowledge that you need to adjust the seat with the child's growth is common when you first buy the car seat and anxiously read over the owner's manual. But, as time goes on and you settle into life as a parent, you realize it is a lot easier than you think to forget that your child might be in a new growth stage. All parents and guardians can appreciate any reminder to consider their kid's current weight, height, and age and compare it to the car seat they are using.
A Few Quick Tips on Car Seat Safety
- Check your child's height and weight every 2-3 months. Use this information, along with his or her age, to see that the car seat you are using fits the needs of the child's body.
- Always refer to your owner's manual. If you have lost it, just search online for the exact car seat you have and you will find a copy of the manual.
- Adjust the seat straps for clothing layers as the seasons change.
- The straps should be tight enough that you can only slip one finger under them.
- The buckle should sit across the armpit.
- Don't forget to adjust the head rest as they grow taller.
- Keep the car seat clean. You can usually remove the cover and throw it in the washing machine, but check with your owner's manual to make sure you put the seat back together correctly.
- Use the latch system if your car has it. If you are unsure, you can always take it to a designated location to have the car seat professionally checked.
- Always let a second person check the tightness of your car seat when it is in a buckled position. You may think it is tight enough, but someone else could easily prove where there could be some unknown slack in the straps or locks.
- Check regularly for recalls on your car seat or booster seat.
Florida Law vs. Pediatric Expert Suggestions
Every state has different laws concerning children in car seats. Below, you will find what Florida law technically says about them, and you will also see how it compares to what child experts have to say.
- FL Law states children under the age of five have to be in a “crash-tested, federally approved child restraint”.
- FL Law requires a $60 fine if you violate this rule.
- FL Law states the best car seat is the one that fits your child perfectly, with an emphasis on age. There is no mention of rear-facing versus forward-facing seats.
- However, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you keep your child rear-facing until they meet the weight of 40 pounds. They remind us, “Fortunately, car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, which means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday.”
- FL Law requires children ages 4-5 to at least be in a booster seat.
- However, pediatric experts suggest that you keep a 4-5 year old child in a forward-facing car seat until they outgrow the weight and height requirements for their car seat. Basically, you always want to cross-reference your child's weight and height with the information in your owner's manual to make sure you are providing your child with the safest option for his or her body size.
- FL Law states that children can legally sit in the front passenger seat upon the age of six.
- However, experts recommend that all children 12 years of age and under sit in the backseat. The major concern here is that children in this age range are not built to withstand the intensity of deployed airbags. For a child, an airbag can potentially pose more danger than protection.
- FL Law exempts taxis and busses from these guidelines.
- But, it is still wise to bring along a car seat or booster if you know you are going to hop in a taxi or a rideshare that day.
Keeping the Right Attitude About Car Seat Safety
Being a parent can change your life and schedule in so many ways. All of a sudden, every minute becomes valuable because you are now in charge of getting yourself and your family ready to go to the next event or destination. As understandable as it is that you may get frustrated from time to time, try to keep the right attitude when it comes to car seat safety. We tend to cut corners when we are stressed out or short on time, but buckling your child in safely and correctly is never something to rush. Find proper outlets for your stress so that you can give full attention to car seat safety even in those hurried moments.
Resources for More Information on Car Seat Safety in Florida
- Florida Car Seat Fitting Stations by County (PDF by Florida Occupant Protection Resource Center)
- Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Car Seat Program
- CPS Technician Search: Find a CPS Technician
- Safe Kids Florida Directory
- NHTSA car seat inspection Center
- Learning to install car seats
If you or a loved one have been injured or harmed as a result of the negligence or actions of others, you may be able to make a claim for personal injury. This also applies to the proper functioning of your child's car seat or booster seat. Contact a trusted lawyer today at Keller, Melchiorre, and Walsh for a quick consultation.