Whether you're taking a quick jaunt to the store or a long road trip with your baby, ensuring the vehicle is safe is a must to keep your baby happy and comfortable. A general check can start with a review of the car's own environmental and safety features to ensure they're functional. From there, you can do a self-check of potential hazards ranging from the entertainment options to the worthiness of the car seat.
Clean all the nooks and crannies of your car to remove leftover food or trash suggests Jennifer Beall. Beall is the founder of CleanBeeBaby, a Los Angeles-based mobile car seat cleaning and safety company. This isn't just about maintaining a clear car and keeping the baby from eating something she shouldn't. Beall says food and beverage spills can build up in the crevices, which can cause buckles and other devices to get stuck in emergencies.
Avoid Accessory Overload
Although you may want to provide entertainment for your baby, Beall recommends keeping in-car toys to a minimum. “With third-party items on the car seat, you don’t want hard toys or accessories impacting the performance of the seat in a crash,” she says. Soft toys could be a problem too if the baby topples over while trying to reach them. Toys also raise the risk of driver distraction. If the baby injures herself with a toy, it won't be easy for you to simultaneously deal with the road and her panic.
Replace Car Seats Often
Car seats go through significant wear and tear between spills, tears and general use. Modern technology constantly upgrades safety systems so you must know the car seat’s expiration date and replace it as needed, says Beall. Always replace a car seat after an accident, even if it was not visibly damaged. Beall says that's recommended just in case a buckle, restraint or clip was jolted during the collision.
Use a Two-Way Mirror
A two-way mirror installed on the rear seat head rest, facing your child, helps you to keep an eye on your baby. If your little one is trying to squiggle out of his car seat, or reach for nearby items or door locks, you'll have a clear view of his actions. You could get a mirror like this for less than $20 as of 2014, says Julie Vallese, consumer safety expert with the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
It never hurts to have your car and the car seat installation inspected by a certified technician, recommends Vallese. “Unfortunately, three out of four car seats are typically not installed correctly,” she says. A certified technician can also show you how to activate child locks, clean the car seat to prevent food from blocking safety devices, and remove any loose items that might take fly around during an accident.