Recently laws changed in Texas which I fully support because, frankly, it's sad that people have to be forced to care about their kids but also the education is simply not there. By that I mean, it's very likely you are screwing stuff up completely without knowing- I sure did! People have no idea how dangerous cars are and how they are designed. (Neither did I really until I went to some training to be a volunteer to install car seats.) So, for those of you having babies: no matter what you do go immediately to a car seat check up and learn. I don't care if you think you're seat is installed right I bet you anything you're wrong. 99% people screw it up. Seriously. Like bad. We read the instructions ten times, followed the pictures and when I went to this training and we all went out to the cars to practice the teachers laughed and pointed and took pictures for the power point presentation. But the thing that made my stomach fall to my toes was realizing if we had been in a serious wreck my kid could have gone through the windshield. In the carseat. You know that little metal s thing that comes with the seats? Did you use it? Probably weren't supposed to. Only if you have a certain kind of seatbelt do you need to. We used both. Figured hey: two is better! Right? Wrong! I can't give advice online about individual car seats so don't ask. Someone needs to be there to look at it. So go. A few fire stations or ems stations have a technician but please don't just go asking for help, actually ask if someone is CPS (yes like the bad people that take kids... kidding...) certified. Safekids.org and Safe Riders are other organizations that frequently have car seat check-ups and sometimes they donate seats to those in need. (Safe Riders is in Texas only, the other is nationwide.)
And go when you graduate to the toddler seat. One of the biggest things people do wrong is switch their kids to the next seat too soon, and turn them around forward facing way, WAY, too soon. Watch This!! It's an amazing video that explains why you should keep your kid rear facing as long as possible. People, the old standard of 12 months and 20 pounds could kill or seriously injure your kid. Look on your seat and see what it says. Most go up to 30 or some new ones up to 40 pounds which means if you look on there it will tell you "can rear face etc up to 30 pounds, etc" There is no behavior issue that is worth your child's health or life, there actually are resources if your toddler is acting up. Watch the video, when it gets to the crash test dummy part you will see what I mean. I about threw up when I saw a video like this because we had turned Kaiya around right at 12 months, not knowing any better, and I had no idea how hurt she could have been.
Another big thing people do, especially with new ones, is get those little mirrors. Guess what? That's a projectile. Keep the clutter to a minimum. Anything not tied down can fly and hit your kid in the head and the velocity can be amazing. I've been hit by a drunk twice now and one time this tiny little cd case thing nailed me in the arm and it hurt like heck, but it could have broken something on a kid. Keep the toys to a minimum, they actually suggest you not use any thing attached to the seat unless the car seat company itself approves it. That may sound silly but believe it or not they actually test those toys and are certain they won't hurt a child. Non-approved toys have taken out kids eyes. Yes. Freaky.
OK, for those with older kids I hope you're still reading because guess what? They need protection too. Cars are designed for adults. Period. No child under 18 (ok, maybe 17 or 16) and/or 100lbs should be in front. Yes your kids would make fun of you. Tough. I personally don't think kids should drive until they are 18 anyway, but seriously if you have a petite teenager check into getting a seatbelt adjuster. It should fit along the collar bone and the hip bone and they should be sitting comfortably, but all the way- not slouched- in the seat. You make the rules after all until kiddo gets a j-o-b and moves out so be firm.
Of course I too rode on the floor board on long trips when I was a kid. But back then cars didn't go 90 mph all the time. Use the seat the kid is in until it's done, not you're done. By that, for an infant only go get the toddler when it's close to time but keep the child in the seat they are in until they outgrow it. For moving to booster seats, do not move a child until they can sit for an extended time (however long you are usually in the car) still. Yes, still. If they squirm too much they will mess up the arrangement of the seatbelt and could break their little hips. I would suggest when getting a toddler seat getting one with a heavier weight limit so you last longer in it and let the kid outgrow it. If your kid is really squirmy they make seats that go up to very heavy like over 50lbs, but they are expensive and usually for special needs. Kids should also be in booster seats until up to age 8. That's right. 8. I know it would be a huge battle in most households, but seriously? I would show them a thousand crash test dummy videos. And guess what if you live in Texas, it's law now. If your kid is under 8 and is not 4'9" (which is a huge freaking 7 yoa by the way) then go get a booster seat. And seriously, the front seat thing? Not until the kid is at least one hundred pounds. Usually like 13. (The national highway people actually say children 12 and under should remain in the rear seat.) They made adult car seats to fit people over 100lbs and 5'00" and up. (But, you probably still need adjusters if you're super short. Sorry. Even adults.) If you are the mom (or dad) who carts the whole neighborhood around you might want to get a cheap extra one in case someone doesn't have theirs as well. Oh, and most people know this, but don't use a used car seat unless you are 100% certain it was never in a wreck. And no seats over 7 years old. Check your recall lists people!! I never check that enough, I should, but sure enough when Kaiya was like eight months old she was pulling out this stuffing stuff from her seat and I thought: that can't be good. Guess what? It was on the recall list, the lining needed to have an adjustable patch put on that all you had to do was write and they would send it to you. Another good reason to go to a check up, they usually check the most current recall list for you and can make sure you are registered with your carseat company so you get any needed updates. They can address specific questions or problems. Sometimes you have a weird car or a weird seat so they can help with little adjusting problems. There are tons of other things I left out that you need to know so go to these sites and read up, but more importantly go to an event and actually talk to someone and learn how to keep your kid (and hey... yourself!) safe. One last note. Sorry for the preachiness of this but I do feel passionate about it. That is part of why it took me so long to write it, that and I was scared to say anything wrong, but when I was first trained I was insane!! As my hubby would say I would meet people at the park and be like: Hi, what car seat do you use? And I practically chased this one lady. So just be glad you don't know me in real life. If you do know me, uh, sorry. I just remember thinking wow. I wish to God someone had told me all this stuff earlier. So, I hope at least one person learned something and if anything at least it's finally off my chest!