Safety is paramount when it comes to your children’s well-being, as any rational and experienced parent will be glad to tell you, and safety seats even have the game in the name! Still, any device, even those designed to ensure safety and well-being for your child, can cause quite the unfortunate accident if handled improperly.
The question that arises from this fact is, of course, ‘What are the basic guidelines for proper Safety Seat Use?’ Well. that’s just what we’re here to explore, so buckle up and enjoy our ride through every nifty little detail of how to operate, install and set up the perfect safety seat for your child!
Table of Contents
Safety Seat Basics
Given the title, you may be under the impression that you know enough of this section’s contents already; however, it is strongly advised not to skip it regardless. You may learn something important!
What is a Safety Seat?
In basic terms, a safety seat is any kind of harness designed not only to comfortably support the occupant, but primarily to do so in the safest form possible. Usually, these seats are mounted somewhere in the interior of a motor vehicle, such as a car, truck or compact van.
Safe’ in this context is understood as possessing impact-resistant qualities, being made out of durable materials, providing enough lumbar, head and side support to brace in the event of a crash, and much more. Safety seats can be mere add-ons to your vehicle’s existing equipment or come off as fully self-contained units that might even need the removal of the existing rear seat; it all depends on the design.
Which kind of Safety Seat does my Child need?
There are many types of these seats; depending on your child’s age, the optimal configuration may vary significantly. There are rear-facing seats for children below the age of two, for example.
In many jurisdictions, you are not allowed, in fact, to use anything but a rear-facing seat for any occupant less than 24 months old. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are booster seats, which are designed for children in their early teens.
These simply adjust the seat belts of the existing hardware they’re attached to so that the child assumes a proper, safe position at all times. Of course, there are plenty of seat types in between, as well as some models that can switch between multiple configurations to row with the child’, as it is often called in adverts.
Generally, the most important aspect of any safety seat, besides its quality and reliability, is how well it suits your particular child. Use their age to gauge the best design suitable for them. As they get older, your little one will need less and less equipment beyond the default to keep them safe, but remember that does not mean you’ll necessarily have to spend less!
Which Safety Seat is Best?
This is highly subjective, and nearly impossible to say, simply because of the number of variables involved. No seat is perfect, but no seat is to be avoided at all costs, either. It’s all a mix of personal preference and your child’s needs. So, the only possible answer to that answer would have to be, ⁔he one that’s best for you,’ as unimpressive as that may sound.
Why use a proper Child restraint in the first place?
This one may seem like a question not to ask, but it is perfectly reasonable to question the rationale behind the whole safety seat thing.
After all, they’re a costly investment, and will become unusable within a few years, too. The truth is that a proper safety seat is one of the most important products you could possibly invest in as a parent, especially if you travel a lot.
Not only are they statistically shown to reduce injury from accidents of nearly all kinds by whole orders of magnitude, but they aid in proper posture and health, too!
The 5 Basic Guidelines for Proper Seat use every Parent should know
1. Pick the right one
Just because a seat has all the features or is especially well-made doesn’t mean it’ll work perfectly for you and your child. Always consider your individual needs above everything else, otherwise, you risk falling prey to the powers of PR and buying something you don’t actually need.
2. Use the seat facing the proper direction
Rear-facing seats point backwards, forward-facing seats to the front; that much should be clear. However, many seats can be used both ways. In that case, consult the manual. It’ll tell you which configuration is suitable for which kind of situation, and you can mount the seat accordingly. Remember, sing a good seat improperly is just as bad as not using one at all!
3. Don’t just put it anywhere
There is a good reason most safety seats explicitly tell you in their manuals to mount them onto the back row, even though it makes no functional difference at first glance: In the vast majority of cars, that’s where your child will be safer in the event of an accident.
However, do some research before you blindly follow this advice. Look up crash tests for your make and model and see for yourself which exact spot in your vehicle is the most well-protected, and put your safety seat there and not anywhere else.
4. Know how to use the harness
Analyze every detail. Is it coming out of the correct slot? Is it tight enough? Does it pass over all the essential areas of the body that need protection? Are you absolutely certain you didn’t miss anything? Rinse and repeat a few times to make sure.
5. Know how to install it properly
Or, in other words, consult the manual at all times. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t. Each seat type behaves differently, and with all of them, you’ll need to know how to make sure everything is snug, tight and secure before heading off on that road trip. Take your time, study the material and do it right!
The Different Ways of Positioning Child Car Seats
Position 1: Front Passenger
The way most modern cars are designed, rear passengers are always safer than those sitting in the front. However, some parents may like to keep an eye on their little ones during the drive, for which the front passenger seating position is obviously the best.
Putting a front-facing seat here is pretty straightforward—pardon the pun—but rear-facing designs are a wholly different story. Under most jurisdictions, putting a rear-facing safety seat in the front is illegal, but that alone is not what will deter you from trying to put one there anyways, right?
The facts are these: Rear-facing safety seats in the front have proven to be many orders of magnitude more dangerous than almost any kind of car seating—yes, that includes regular ones, too, not just child safety seats.
This is due to the way the back of the seat will contact with the car’s airbag, only worsening the impact of the crash instead of mitigating it. Simply put, by experimenting with seats in the front passenger area like this, you would be creating much more trouble than it’s worth.
Even installing a front-facing design in this area of the car is probably not your best option and should be avoided.
Position 2: Rear Seat, Driver’s side
This, too, is not really an optimal way to go about installing a safety seat. While your child will most likely be adequately protected this way, there will also be a huge blind spot blocking your view of them, and chances are this will make for an unsettling driving experience at best.
Position 3: Central Rear Seat
This position may not be available to you depending on your vehicle, but many common SUVs nowadays do feature two or three rows of rear seating with a center seat each, and a number of family sedans and station wagons have rear bench seats with a usable center portion.
In any case, this position is often one of the safest, especially if the center seat provides a three-point belt. This is because, in the event of a collision, this seat will be the farthest away from the sides of the car, preventing the occupant from taking the brunt of the impact.
Position 4: Rear Seat, Passenger’s Side
This is marginally better than installing the seat in position 2, mainly because there won’t be anything blocking your view of your child. Safety-wise, though, expect them to behave the same.
Some Tips On Positioning
Regarding Five-Point Harnesses
Harnesses are always a chore to set up, but five-point harnesses are the most complex of them all, meaning they are often also the ones responsible for the highest number of headaches per user. Let’s take out the stress, step by step, shall we?
First, place your child in the seat, with their back and bottom completely pressed flat against the surface of the seat. Make sure no part of the seat is obstructed, and don’t use any kind of additional safety padding.
Thick clothes, too, may pose a problem with the harness. Next, make sure the straps are coming out of their proper slots. This differs depending on the seat, so do consult the manual for this one, even if that may be time-consuming.
Once you have that figured out, place the straps over your child’s shoulders and hips. As soon as they are in this position, it’s time to buckle up. Adjust afterwards to maintain a perfect fit. Remember; the harness should lie flat across the shoulder and have a snug, tight hold.
You may also need to install a retainer clip chest clip, or other safety-enhancing add-ons as well. Do consult the manual for details on this!
Regarding Booster Seats
Booster seats are simple enough compared to many other seat designs; they simply act as a cushion to raise your child into a proper seating position where the harnesses built into the car seat can reach without issue and maintain a safe hold.
However, finding that seating position can be difficult at times. Let’s take a look at the whole process and try to make it look a bit simpler, okay? First, you need to make sure that the seat you’re mounting the booster onto has both a lap and shoulder belt.
Most booster seats won’t come with belts of their own! For basic positioning, the rules are the same as above in the section Regarding Five-Point Harnesses: Make sure they’re sitting with their back flat, and remove any unnecessary thick clothes or pieces of safety padding between them and the seat surface.
Position the lap belt first; it should go over your child’s upper thighs. Make sure to route it through the armrests of the seat properly if applicable—again, the seat’s manual is probably the best place to consult for this.
If there’s a headrest, adjust it so that the shoulder belt can reach as it should, without forgetting about a comfortable, snug fit for your little one’s head and neck. After all that is settled, it’s time to buckle up and adjust as necessary.
Armed with the knowledge contained in this overview, you should have no problems finding a perfect safety seat for your child in the future, no matter their age or your budget. We love helping others, and hope that this guide of ours did its part to help you with your decision. Good luck out there! Give your child what it deserves: The best!