This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that the baby product manufacturer Graco would be recalling 25,000 My Ride 65 infant car seats; the seat's harness webbing, they found, might not adequately restrain a child in the event of an accident. If your model number is included in the recall, you can contact Graco for a replacement harness kit.
Although child seat recalls are infrequent occurrences, the NHTSA announcement highlights the need for some best practices for parents when shopping for and maintaining an infant car seat for their child.
Removable seats are typically used from the time a child is born until the age of 7, although some children between the ages of 4 and 7 might be able to graduate to a booster seat that aligns their body properly with adult-size seat belts in vehicles. For children under 3, seats that face the rear of the vehicle provide the maximum amount of security. As they grow, a forward-facing seat incorporates a harness and tether to limit movement. (Some seats are convertible, which allows you to switch from a rear- to forward-facing position at the appropriate time. Manufacturers provide height and weight limits for seats that will guide you.)
Installing a child seat can often be a source of stress for parents who are concerned they might have missed something, but there’s help for that, too: The NHTSA has an online search tool to find vehicle inspectors who can look at the seat and make sure it’s situated properly in a given make and model of vehicle. Generally, the units are tethered in the back by seat belts or seat anchors provided by the car manufacturer and are fitted with straps that fit snugly but not too tightly.
While you usually replace your car seat when your child outgrows it, not everyone knows that car seats come with expiration dates that signal the need to retire the equipment. That’s because exposure to heat and cold can degrade the plastics and other materials used.
Finally, registering the seat with the manufacturer will ensure that any possible recalls or safety issues—like Graco's—will come to your immediate attention. According to the NHTSA, most car seat owners don’t bother with this. That’s a mistake. For your child’s safety, taking a few minutes to register your model could potentially offset serious injury down the road.