Is Your Child Safe In The Car Seat? Here’s What You Should Know...

If you are in the driver’s seat while your child is in the rear car seat, one of your top priorities while driving would be the safety of the child. In fact, this has a lot to do with the type of car seat your child is using.

Most parents check and recheck if the seat and the belt are secure. However, you may be doing some mistakes without even knowing it. So, it is necessary that you are aware of the correct installation process for a car seat and the common mistakes that you can end up doing.

Selecting The Right Child Safety Seat:

Child safety seats are responsible for reducing the risks of a child suffering from an injury while travelling in a car. It is as important as the driver’s seat belt. The driver and the passenger at the front should always wear seat belts to protect themselves from collisions. Likewise, it is essential for a toddler or an infant to be buckled into the right kind of car seat for his/her age and size.

Listed below are the different types of car seats available in India and some guidelines that will help you select the right one for your child:

  1. Infant rear-facing car seat - This is suitable for children below the age of 1 year.  It features a harness strap system that safeguards the toddler/infant from jolts and a cradle that protects his/her neck and spine.
  2. Child rear-facing car seat - This type of seat is most suitable for children between the ages of 1 and 3 years. The car seat should be kept in a rear-facing position until the child exceeds the manufacturer-recommended height and weight.
  3. Front-facing car seat - These car seats are ideal for children between 4 and 7 years of age. This type of seat can also be used by a child below 4 years, who has outgrown the maximum recommended height and weight for the child rear-facing seat. This seat has a tether strap system that is more safe than an ordinary seat belt.
  4. Booster seat - Children between 8 and 12 years of age should ideally use a booster seat. This seat can also be used by a child who is younger than 8 years, but has outgrown the front-facing car seat in terms of height and weight. The booster seat will add extra height; this ensures that the seat belt fits properly.

Features Of Car Seats And Booster Seats:

There are several types of car seats available in the market. You can select one based on your convenience and budget. Some of the key features to look out for when buying a child safety seat are as follows:

  • Convertible - Convertible car seats may work as a rear and front-facing seat. Some of the models also transform from front-facing to booster seat. However, they cannot be used by children of all ages.
  • All-in-one - Car seats with this feature can be converted from a rear-facing seat for infants to a front-facing seat for toddlers. These can also be converted from a front-facing seat to a booster seat for young children.
  • Five-point harness - The five-point harness system is a feature of front-facing car seats. The harness clips in at the shoulders, hips, and the lap of the child. The harness is responsible for reducing the risk of the child slipping/falling off from the seat.
  • Twist-free straps - Some car seats come with twist-free straps that will not cause any discomfort to the child.
  • Built-in lock clips - Lock clips are necessary to prevent the car seat from tipping over.
  • LATCH system - This is essentially ‘lower anchors and tethers for children’ that does away with the need to use the seat belts of the vehicle to anchor the child safety seat. The LATCH system provides greater stability to the seat as well.
  • Wings - The wings protect the head of the child at the time of a collision by acting like a cushion.
  • Recline - The recline functionality is seen mostly in rear-facing seats. The facility provides more comfort to the child while sleeping.

Some car seats also provide impact protection through the use of EPS foam that cushions the child’s head at the time of a collision.

Tips For Car Seat Installation:

The process of installation of a car seat may be different across vehicles. However, there are some common points that apply for all cars:

  • Read the manual - You should ideally read the instructions on how the car seat should be installed before you actually attempt to secure it in place.
  • Position the car seat in the rear seat - The car seat should always be attached to the rear seat of the car, as this is the safest location for a child. In case you are using a rear-facing seat, ensure that it is never placed facing forward. This will reduce the stability of the seat. Also, a rear-facing seat should be placed at an angle of around 45 degrees to avoid stability issues.
  • Check your car’s manual - Some vehicles have anchors that are attached to the seats. The safety seat can be affixed here. Older models of cars may not have this facility, and the seat belt should be used for securing the safety seat. The car owner’s manual will help you in understanding this in detail.
  • Affix the seat belt properly - You should refer to the owner’s manual to understand how the seat belt can be locked once the child seat is in place. Once the child safety seat is affixed using the anchors or a seat belt, move it back and forth and from side to side to check if it is fastened. The seat should not move beyond an inch in any direction.
  • Adjust recline angle and tether strap - In the case of rear-facing seats, the base of the car seat should be level. This will protect the child’s head. Forward-facing seats also have an extra strap for additional safety. This is referred to as the tether strap. Ensure that you have tightened the tether strap so that the child’s head is protected.

Seat Your Child Properly:

After the installation of the car seat, it is important that you place your child properly in it. Listed below are some tips to help you with the same:

  • Do not place the child in the car seat with bulky clothing.
  • The child’s back should be against the seat without slouching.
  • The straps should be flat against the child’s body without any knots or twists.
  • The straps should be buckled in a comfortable manner; not too tight, not too loose.
  • The shoulder straps should be connected directly below the shoulders of the child.
  • The chest clip should be along the armpits.
  • In case the child safety seat is too wide, you should place rolled towels in the gaps on each side, so that the child is snug.
  • You should never place a towel or blanket between the straps of the seat and the child.

Points To Remember:

It is recommended that you inspect the child safety seat regularly to ensure that it is always mounted right. You can also check for damages in the straps. If needed, you can get it inspected at a service centre where an expert will assess whether your child will be safe when seated in it.

Additional points to bear in mind are as follows:

  • It is important that you use a child safety seat every time your child travels in your car.
  • In case you are transferring the child safety seat to another vehicle, it is important to check the user manual of the latter for installation procedures.
  • The rear-facing seat provides maximum safety to the child.
  • Children under 12 years of age should be seated in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Car seats also expire, as these are made of plastic that tends to get brittle with age. If you are using a car seat, ensure that it is strong enough to take the impact of a crash. Ensure that you are aware of the expiry date of the car seat, especially if it is being handed down to the younger sibling in the family.

The size of the child (and not the age) should be considered when moving to the next level of child safety seat. It is recommended to plot the growth of your child in order to select the right car seat for him/her.

GST Update: GST of 18% is applicable on car insurance effective from the 1st of July, 2017

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