Top 10 FAQs About Car Seats
- What is the best car seat?
There is no clear cut answer to give as the best car seat is one that fits your budget, your child, the vehicle, and one that you can install and use correctly every time. From a $50 car seat to a $300 car seat they are all held to the same safety standards, some just have more bells and whistles than others.
- Can a car seat still be used following a crash?
The general recommendation is NO. Car seats, just like seat belts, need to be replaced after a moderate to severe crash. Most insurance companies will reimburse for car seats involved in a crash. Make sure you contact them to learn their policies. Learn more here.
- How do I get a car seat if I cannot afford one?
There are multiple ways to receive assistance on a car seat. Many health insurance companies, from private insurance to Medicaid, offer assistance with a purchase of a seat. Also, the fitting stations across the state have car seats available for those that cannot afford one. Contact your local Louisiana State Trooper station for assistance, or the Alliance Safety Council in Baton Rouge at (225) 282-3281.
- When can I forward face my child?
We recommend rear-facing until the maximum limits that your car seat allows are reached. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be kept rear-facing until at least two years of age and preferably as long as possible due to the development of the spine. In absolutely all cases, infants should be rear-facing until they are BOTH one year old AND 20 pounds. Learn more about rear facing here.
- When does my car seat expire?
Many manufacturers put expiration dates on their car seats. Please refer to the manufacturer for specific information regarding expiration. Six years is the general recommendation, but there are some seats that have up to a 10 year expiration. These expiration dates are in place due to possible degradation of the plastic shell, and other parts and older seats will often not meet current government safety standards.
- Are used car seats safe to use?
Gently used and carefully stored car seats that were previously used by a friend or family member are fine, provided they have not been in a crash, are not recalled, are not missing any pieces, and you can access a copy of the seat instructions. Consider scheduling an appointment with a Child Passenger Safety Technician to evaluate the seat with you.
- Can I use the lower anchor system and the seat belt at the same time for extra protection?
While there are a few exceptions, the general answer is no. You should not use both the lower anchors and the vehicle seat belt to install your child’s car seat. There is no evidence through crash testing that the child is given additional protection when both the lower anchors and vehicle seat belt are used at the same time.
- Which harness slots should I use for my child?
Always refer to the child safety seat instructions for correct usage for that particular seat. When rear-facing, the harness slots at or below the child's shoulders should be used. When forward-facing, the harness slots at the level of the child's shoulders or above.
- Can I use aftermarket products like mirrors, harness pads or body support?
In general, you should not use any products that are not made by the car seat manufacturer as it has not been crash tested. Despite the claims of some companies, these products are NOT regulated by any federal standard and have not been tested or certified by the manufacturers. Using them with your child safety seat might compromise the safety of your child in the event of a crash.
- Where should the chest clip (retainer clip) be on my child?
It should be across the chest, at the armpit level. It should NOT be on the neck or tummy. This clip itself does not protect during a crash, the purpose of the clip is to keep the harness straps in the correct position before a crash.
- Please visit a child passenger safety technician for further education on correct installation of your child safety seat.
- The harness should be snug and pass the "pinch test" over the shoulders. You should not be able to pinch any excess harness over the child's shoulders using your pointer finger and thumb.
- In the upcoming winter months, please make sure only thin coats are used before harnessing a child, a secure fit cannot be achieved with the use of heavy winter coats.
- Please visit http://www.lahighwaysafety.org/child.html for further information about state laws, recommendations and resources.
Karen Ahmad, RN
Karen is the Injury Prevention Coordinator for Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and Alliance Safety Council.
Blaire Groger, RN, BSN
Blaire is an RN at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and Regional Coordinator for the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force.
Please visit a child passenger safety technician for further education on correct installation of your child safety seat.