To bring awareness to Child Passenger Safety Week, our favorite car seat expert, Alisa J. Baer, MD (also known as The Car Seat Lady), has created a list of the essential car seat safety tips that every parent should know:
1. Use a safety restraint on EVERY trip, no matter how short. Studies show that most crashes with children occur within 10 minutes of home and on roads with speed limits of 45mph or less.
2. A properly installed car seat goes a long way but a good driver goes further. That means no texting, talking on the phone, or any other distractions like comforting your fussy baby. If the baby gets restless, pull over or keep your eye out for great deals on soft toys on sites like TOTSY to keep in the car.
Buying a car seat:
3. Every car seat sold in the US must pass the same rigorous crash tests so every car seat is safe as long as you use it properly every time and it fits your child and car. TOTSY will be having car seat sales in the month of August so look out for those special deals.
Where to place:
4. The center is 43% safer than the side - so whenever possible, install your child’s car seat in the center. With two kids, keep the older child in the center as they are typically less protected than the baby.
The best fit:
5. Snug harness straps and a snug fit of the car seat to the car gives your child a parachute landing in a car crash - as slow and gentle as possible while loose harness straps or a loose car seat can cause injury.
When to change:
6. The right order of progression is rear-facing till at least age 2 => forward-facing => booster => seat belt => front seat. Don’t rush your child to the next stage as every step is a decrease in your child’s safety and don’t worry if their legs look cramped in a rear-facing car seat—babies are flexible! Your toddler is too big for rear-facing when their head is one inch or less of the convertible car seat top or at the weight limit, which is 35-40 pounds for most seats.
7. Forward facing is ALWAYS better with a tether! Tethers keep your child’s brain and spinal cord safer by decreasing how far your child’s head will move forward in a crash by 6-8 inches.
8. Keep your child in a five-point harness until they are at least four years old, at least 40 pounds and mature enough to sit still in a booster. With many five-point harnesses going to 60 or more pounds, school age kids can continue to ride in a five-point harness before transitioning to a booster.
9. Don’t skip the booster! They keep the lap belt properly positioned on a child’s strong hip bones, not on their abdomen where it can cause internal injuries in a crash.
10. Your child is ready to ride without a booster when they pass The 5-Step Test (for most kids, this is around age 10), below:
The 5-Step Test ©SafetyBeltSafe USA
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you can say yes to all 5 questions, the child is safe to ride without a booster.
About Alisa J Baer, MD:
Alisa graduated from NYU School of Medicine in 2006, completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2009, and is currently living in NYC working as a pediatrician in the NICU (Neonatal intensive care unit) at Columbia University Children’s Hospital of New York - all the while continuing her role as “the car seat lady.”
The epidemiological research Alisa conducted on parental knowledge about and attitudes towards booster seats culminated in a publication in a professional journal in addition to a presentation at a national conference. As a certified instructor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 32-hour car seat course, she has educated nurses, doctors, social workers, police, firemen, and many other community members about car seat safety so that they can provide information and services through their professional roles. This website, dedicated to providing accurate, up-to-date information along with how-to videos to anyone worldwide is a dream of Alisa’s that has now come to fruition.