Car seats are a must for the family planning on taking the children on a cross country trip. Child car seat laws spell out who sits in a forward- and also rear-facing seat, but above and beyond the regulations, there are a number of safety tips for the traveling parent.
Know Child Car Seat Laws for Your Locale and Target Location
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) keeps up to date records for child car seat laws from across the nation. When traveling by car through one or more states, be an educated traveler and avoided getting pulled over and having to make seat adjustments on the side of the road – a notoriously unsafe spot for any kind of car maintenance.
Ensure Car Seat Safety with an Inspection by a Professional
Before hitting the road, locate a child safety seat inspection station with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) locator tool. This is especially crucial when using car seats for the first time, switching them from one vehicle to another or using a LATCH system for additional safety. Make sure everything is anchored and buckled securely before doing 80 mph on the highway.
Car Seats Can Tell a Story
It may sound morbid, but when learning about car seat safety for my first child, I was urged to glue a sticker with the child’s name, phone number of a next of kin, medical information, doctor’s name and our names onto the base of the seat and also onto the back.
The rationale is simple: if we (the parents) were involved in a crash and either incapacitated or killed, the child could be saved, identified, re-united with family and receive emergency medical care in the case of a chronic health problem. Simply print the information on a sheet of paper and use clear packing tape to secure and laminate it onto the seat’s back and bottom.
How About Car Seat Cushions?
Car seat cushions help secure very small infants in larger car seats. Whenever possible, borrow, rent or buy a seat that is small enough for your baby. Yes, she will outgrow it in a few weeks; but having a snug fit all the way around is a worthwhile investment. Consignment stores will gladly help you sell a gently used car seat. Safety concerns also warrant the warning that sometimes these cushions become dislodged, especially if the child thrashes around. This leaves the head and neck vulnerable.
Child Safety Car Seat Tips for the Front Seat
Parents with children in forward facing car seats may have to place them into the front seat if riding in a two-seater or traveling with more children than the backseat has space to safely contain. This is not an ideal situation and the better solution for a cross country car trip is to rent a minivan or SUV; if this is not an option, Baldwin Pediatrics urges parents to move the passenger seat as far from the airbag containing dashboard as possible and buckle in the seat. This is not appropriate for a rear-facing seat.
To learn about car seat safety when traveling by air, please read: Guide to FAA Approved Toddler Car Seats