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A lot of parents dread getting the whole family secure in the car for a trip because it can take so long to deal with all the car seats, booster seats, seat belts, and other requirements. But, you must take your time to create the most secure set-up possible for your children. Car seats are a big part of that for the first few years of a child’s life. But just how essential are they?
Before we start, it is important to acknowledge that there are lots of conflicting pieces of advice out there from parents. You will get some that go against government guidelines because they feel that the rules are too extreme. Or, there will be those with questionable advice in emergencies. This makes it difficult to understand what you can and cannot do in extreme cases and the more realistic experience of parenthood. However, it is important to understand the laws, CDC guidance, and the worst-case scenarios to better protect your child.
How to carry a baby without a car seat?
Traveling with a baby without a car seat is a very dangerous idea. All parents should get an appropriate rear-facing car seat for the first 2 years of the child’s life and then progress to a front-facing seat. This is the safest way to restraint an infant in the rear seat and dramatically reduce the risk of injury if there is an accident.
Also, don’t forget that the hospital expects you to have both a car seat and a baby carrier when leaving the hospital by car. You may also have heard that taxis are exempt from laws about car seats. But, this is only true in certain states. It is best to book a car where you can request a car seat in advance.
Some parents may say that you are fine securing a baby carrier to a back seat with a seatbelt, using a wearable baby carrier while you have the seatbelt between you and the child, or simply holding onto a child. None of these are safe because of the lack of proper restraints. Sudden impact in these situations could be fatal.
It is also important to remember that there is a difference between what is the law and what is a national guideline. You should always follow the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC when it comes to the health and safety of your child when traveling in a car.
The AAP recommends a rear-facing car seat in the back seat for the first two years and no substitutions, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says this should be for the first year. Also, don’t forget that laws can vary depending on your home state.
Here is a video from The Star you tube channel if you prefer to watch it!
What do you do if you don’t have a car seat?
The blunt answer here is that you shouldn’t travel with a young baby at all if you don’t have a car seat. If yours has broken or you are without one for any other reason, you need to replace it before you travel with your child again. There should be a car seat in every family car, ideally one in the car or caregiver like grandparents too. In complete emergencies, you might have to hold the child in your lap or find a way of keeping them safe in a baby carrier. But, neither is safe and you run the risk of fatal injuries if there is a crash.
Can you hold the baby in your lap in a car?
Holding a baby in your lap in a car is very dangerous because they are not properly restrained. You may think that you have a good grip on them, but they can easily fly out of your arms if there is a sudden impact. The safest form of restraint for a baby is a five-point harness that covers the whole body while they are in the protective shell of the car seat. Holding onto them doesn’t come close. Besides, there is also the fact that they could squirm out of your hands if fidgety or that you could become distracted during the car ride.
Can you put your child in a wearable baby carrier while you are in the car?
There are suggestions online that you can keep your baby secure on a car ride by putting them in a wearable carrier, such as a Baby Bjorn, and having them strapped to your chest. This would remove the risk of babies falling off your lap or moving too freely. But, that doesn’t mean that this is a safe option.
The constraints on a wearable carrier aren’t secure enough to prevent injury if there is an accident. There is also some conflicting advice about how to wear a seatbelt with these devices on. If you have no choice but to take this approach in an emergency, make sure that the seatbelt is between you and your child.
What about putting toddlers on your lap with a seatbelt on?
This is also a bad idea. When children are old enough to sit in a booster seat with a normal seat belt, you have to be careful about where the straps cover the body. They need to go over the shoulder and thighs rather than round the stomach and neck. You don’t get this secure protection when stretching your seatbelt to cover the both of you.
Can infants sit in the front seat?
There may be the temptation to put your newborn’s rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat so that you can keep a better eye on your child. This is a bad idea because it is far more dangerous. That is because there is a significant risk of injury, or even death if the airbags deploy against the back of the car seat during a crash.
There is still a risk if your child is a little older and has moved onto their front-facing car seat. The sudden impact and angle of an airbag, which can occur at 100 to 220 miles per hour, could cause fatal head or neck injuries. Any form of car seat must stay in the back seat at all times. In fact, no child should be in the front seat at all until they hit their teenage years.
When can kids sit upfront?
A startling statistic from the Center for Disease Control is that more than 600 children aged 12 and younger died in car crashes in 2019 alone. More than 91,000 more were injured in the same period. This is why it is so important that children under the age of 13 have the proper safety precautions in place to prevent accidents.
First of all, they should not be in the front seat. Secondly, they should always have a seatbelt on while in the back seat. Finally, they should be in a booster seat until the seatbelt fits correctly over their shoulder and lap. There will be children aged 10 or under that kick up a fuss about being in a booster seat, but it is for their own good.
Booster seats can reduce the risk of injuries in crashes by as much as 45% because the more secure fit in on the seatbelt
Do you need a car seat and a baby carrier?
It is important that you not only get a car seat and a baby carrier but that you get the best possible products for your child’s safety. Baby carriers are great for transporting children between the house and car, and for keeping them secure when you are at appointments. But, you can’t use them as protection in a car by strapping them in with a seatbelt. Instead, you need a separate car seat that is properly fitted in the car for maximum security. Make sure both items are well made with enough comfort and protective features for the best possible experience.
How important is it to have a car seat for your baby?
To summarize, it is essential that you get the appropriate car seat for your newborn child in advance of the birth and that you know to use it. You will need to have to with you when you take your newborn home and then use it every time they travel in the car. This also means when they travel in other cars or if you get an Uber. The risks of traveling without a car seat for your baby are too great to leave it at home or try some other form of safety device. They are not safe enough in your arms.
Also, remember that this applies for much longer in your child’s early stages than you might expect. You need to use that car seat correctly for two years and it is not worth the risk of taking shortcuts even if your child is big for their age. This includes letting kids ride upfront. It is always better to be safe than sorry and to insist that friends and relatives make space for the car seat in their cars.