Driving with a child in the car means being particularly vigilant. You’ll need to make sure you have the right car seat, that you’re fastening straps and belts properly, and more. Driving safely with a baby often feels like picking up a new set of skills—all of a sudden you’re seeing possible dangers where none may have caught your attention before. These safety tips will help you drive safely and with confidence with a baby.
01. Choose the correct car seat
Choosing the right car seat is crucial, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many styles of car seats, how do you know which is the right one. You have infant seats, full-sized boosters, convertibles, backless boosters—all of them are readily available in most baby stores. Broadly speaking, you should consider three key factors when choosing a car set—your child’s age/size, the car seat’s safety rating, and whether it fits properly in your car. Before you buy a car seat, ask to take it on a test drive. Install the car seat to make sure it fits, make sure your baby fits perfectly, and then go for a short test drive. If you’re feeling comfortable with your decision by the end, go ahead and purchase the seat.
02. Register your baby car seat to be warned of possible recalls
When you buy the car seat, complete the manufacturer’s postcard and form and send it to the relevant address. You can also enter the details over the manufacturer’s website. Most people avoid doing the paperwork, but it can be pretty useful. Sometimes, manufacturers find flaws in the existing car seat, so they recall all the sold pieces, replacing them with newer, safer seats. If you don’t register your car seat, you won’t be notified of any such recalls, leaving your car seat and your baby potentially vulnerable. It’s always better to proactively ensure your baby’s safety.
03. Don’t give baby anything they could choke on
The safest way to keep your baby safe is to drive safely, keeping all your attention on the road ahead. And the best way to ensure no distractions is to remove all objects and obstacles that posit a choking hazard for the baby. Don’t keep any toys lying around within the baby’s reach. Besides being a possible choking hazard, toys can also be dangerous projectiles if there’s an accident. You should also avoid giving the baby food while you’re in the car because of choking dangers. If you must feed the baby, do so after you pull over into a side street. It’s okay to let the baby eat something if there’s someone in the backseat to keep an eye on the baby, but even so, it’s best not to form an unhealthy habit.
04. Install a back seat mirror
This leads from the previous point—you can’t get distracted by your baby; that’s the best way to ensure their safety while driving. But what happens if your baby starts making some noises? Or what if the baby is suddenly very quiet for an extended period? Most mothers will instinctively turn around to make sure their baby is alright, an act that counterintuitively increases your risk of an accident. That’s why you should install a back seat mirror, so a quick glance at the mirror will reveal if everything is alright. You won’t have to turn all the way around. Installing a back seat mirror allows you to continue driving safely with your eye on the road—you don’t have to turn back or pull over to ensure your baby’s safety.
05. Ensure optimal car seat installation and safety
Get your car seat inspected regularly. Call your fire station or police department to enquire about the nearest car seat checkpoint. Public safety departments often provide free car seat installation and safety checks. To find a Child Passenger Safety Technician, use this feature from Safe Kids Worldwide.
06. Always fasten belts and clips
When your baby is rear-facing, the shoulder straps should be carefully positioned and fastened either at or below their shoulders. When your baby is forward-facing, the shoulder straps should be carefully positioned and fastened either at or above their shoulders. The clip for the straps should be around the armpit level—when you pinch the straps, there shouldn’t be too much slack. Positioning and fastening the belts and clips is crucial to hold the baby in place during a potential accident. If the shoulder straps aren’t positioned and fastened optimally, there’s a higher risk of injury during sudden accidents.
07. Keep track of your car seat’s expiration date
Most people don’t know this, but car seats come with an expiration date. You can go through the owner’s manual for information on the car seat’s production and expiration dates. If the car seat is well past its expiration date, or if you’ve been using it for six or seven years, it may be time to change the car seat. Replace expired car seats as the styrofoam and plastics can gradually wear and break down, leaving them incapable of offering adequate protection when necessary.
08. Replace the car seat if you’re ever in a crash
If you’re ever in a car crash, even a mild or moderate one, replace the car seat. It doesn’t matter if the baby was in the car seat at the time or if the car seat seems perfect—veer on the side of caution and replace the car seat even if you’ve had a mild crash. Though the car seat may seem alright on the outside, it may have suffered internal damages that compromise its structural integrity, making it unsafe for babies.
09. Use rear-facing seats for as long as possible.
Parents are often eager to replace rear-facing seats with front-facing seats because it’s a sign of the child’s growth. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you should use rear-facing seats as long as possible, either until the baby is 2 years of age or until they reach the seat’s maximum size and weight capacity.
10. Seat baby in middle rear
Studies suggest the safest place for your newborn or baby car seat in a car is the middle rear seat, not the outboard rear seats and certainly not the front. Installing your car seat here should reduce the possibilities of serious injury in the event of a crash.