Photo: Chicco via Website

As parents, it’s our number one priority to keep our children safe and kids spend a lot of time in the car from daycare drop-off to weekly errands. In fact, new Chicco research* commissioned ahead of Baby Safety Month this September found that 42% of children spend four or more hours in their car seats in a typical week. It’s important that parents take the time to find a car seat that provides optimal comfort and safety for little ones. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Here are 8 tips parents need to know when it comes to buying, installing and using a car seat properly:

1. Don’t purchase a car seat solely based on weight limits, it’s a balance of height, weight, and correct stage: When buying a car seat, it’s important to look at both the weight and height limits of the car seat. Usually, children outgrow height limits before weight, so it’s important to find a car seat that can grow taller with your child. Parents should primarily focus on ease of install, child fit, and comfort—all of these elements play a critical role in traveling safely every time.

2. Comfort plays a role in safety: Comfort is more important than some may think when it comes to car seat safety. A comfortable car seat means children are less likely to wiggle around and stay seated in the correct position in their car seat for the duration of each ride. In addition to contoured seat design, consider unique fabric innovations, such as the Adapt® line of car seats from Chicco that use fabrics with patented 37.5® Technology, which employs natural volcanic minerals to help keep children at the ideal relative humidity of 37.5%.

3. Perform this easy at-home test to make sure your car seat is installed securely: When it comes to car seat installation, 55% of parents do not know or are not sure what the ‘inch test’ is. It’s a simple at-home way to check if your child’s car seat is secure. After installing, grab the seat at the car seat belt path and pull side to side and front to back. If the car seat moves more than one inch in any direction, uninstall and start the process over until a secure fit is achieved and your installation can pass the ‘inch test.’

4. Know when it is the right time to turn your child forward-facing: Parents often want to turn their child forward-facing when baby’s legs touch the back of the vehicle seat. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation is to maximize each car seat mode of use and wait until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limits of the rear-facing car seat.

5. Winter coat protocol: With the weather turning cooler in the coming months, it’s a good idea to clear up confusion about winter coats and car seats. 40% of parents say it is recommended for a child to wear a winter coat in a car seat with a five-point harness or they are unsure. However, best practice is to remove baby’s bulky coat before car rides as it can give a false sense of harness tightness. In a crash, down or poly fill compresses, which means, underneath all that fluff, you have a child in a harness that is too loose.

6. Understand the harness position on car seats: With car seats, it’s important to adjust the harness as your child grows. In rear-facing installations, make sure the harness strap is at or below the child’s shoulders. For forward-facing, make sure the harness strap is at or above the child’s shoulders.

7. Use available resources when you have a question: When installing a car seat, it’s extremely important to seek and use resources rather than winging installation. Use the car seat manual, QR codes and online resources to make sure you are installing your car seat securely, correctly, and safely.

8. Avoid hand-me-down car seats when you can: According to Chicco’s research, a surprising third (34%) of parents use an older sibling’s car seat, hand-me-down from a friend or family member, or purchase a used seat via sites such as Facebook Marketplace. While it’s not necessarily unsafe to re-use a car seat from a family member or friend, it is extremely important that you know the car seat’s history and check both the expiration date and any outstanding recalls. 

For parents looking for additional car seat safety information, ChiccoUSA offers a variety of resources from how to choose a car seat, car seat comparisons and step-by-step installation videos.

*Results based on Chicco survey of 1,004 parents in August 2021