When you have precious cargo in your vehicle, you want to make sure you’re taking steps to keep everyone as safe as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. As a new parent, you may feel overwhelmed with all of the information that comes your way. Do you want to stay safer in the car with your baby? Follow these key safety tips. 

1. Know your state’s car seat regulations (and make sure you’re following them). 

Get to know safe car seat regulations, including how long your child should remain rear-facing (in most states, it’s between one and two years, but some experts recommend rear-facing until four). Babies’ bones are not yet fused as well as adult bones, and little ones can suffer much more severe injury in an accident. A rear-facing seat can protect your baby’s head and neck and reduce the risk of severe injury. 

2. Check baby’s car seat to be sure it works in your car.

Not all car seats are compatible with all vehicles. Well before the time comes for baby to arrive, you need to test your car seat in your vehicle–including whether it will fit with any seats you may already have in the vehicle. If you can’t get a snug fit in your seat that puts your baby at the right angle, you may need to use a different seat. Avoid using aftermarket parts to “make the seat work,” since they may compress unexpectedly in an accident and lead to serious injury. And speaking of aftermarket parts…

3. Avoid adding “extras” to your car seat. 

While toys attached to the car seat are fine (and actually offer a great way to prevent dropped toys, crying babies, and an increased accident risk when you reach back to grab the dropped toy), other extras can pose a serious danger to your little one. Those cute strap covers, for example, may look much more cozy, but they can also prevent the straps from holding your baby securely in an accident. If it doesn’t come directly from the manufacturer, never put an item between your baby and the car seat or straps. 

4. Never put baby in puffy sleepers or coats in the car seat. 

Puffy coats are often a point of contention for parents in colder climates–or on those cold mornings when you have to get up and moving earlier than you’d like. While you want your child to be warm, those puffy coats can compress considerably in an accident and prevent the straps of the car seat from holding your little one in place properly. Instead, try putting your little one in the car seat, then putting the coat on backwards over the car seat straps. You could also use a car seat blanket to help keep baby warm and cozy–just make sure it goes over, not under, the car seat straps.

5. Always do a pinch test on the car seat straps. 

If you can pinch the fabric between your fingers and bring them together with straps on both sides, the straps may be too loose for your little one. Those tight straps can be a life saver in an accident!

6. Do your best to make your baby happy before you get behind the wheel.

Take care of feeding, changing, and other necessary tasks before you start driving. An unhappy baby can mean a distracted parent–and that can spell disaster behind the wheel. 

7. Do not try to feed the baby, reach back to grab toys, or engage in other tasks while driving.

Distracted driving can result in accidents with serious injuries–and infants can pose a potent distraction for many parents, especially if they get fussy. However, when you’re driving, you need to focus on driving. If you need to care for your baby, pull off the road first. 

8. Avoid driving when you’re excessively tired.

Sleep can be hard to come by in those infant days, when your little one often needs you in the middle of the night. It’s all too easy to jump behind the wheel when you’re too tired to take on that task safely. Drowsy driving, however, can have many of the same symptoms as driving while intoxicated, including weaving on the road, failure to see other vehicles around you, and even increased risk-taking. You don’t want to take that risk with a little one in the car. Instead, call a friend or family member to help out if needed. 

9. Drive defensively.

Pay attention to everyone around you. Allow other drivers to have right of way, even if it’s not necessarily their turn. Work on accident avoidance. While liability may matter in an accident, the last thing you want is for your baby to suffer a serious injury because another driver made an error. Consider learning defensive driving techniques while you’re expecting so that you can be better prepared to keep baby safe when he or she arrives. 

10. Avoid unnecessary distractions behind the wheel.

Having your baby in your vehicle can pose a potent enough distraction all on its own. Any additional distractions could prevent you from focusing adequately while you’re driving. Silence your cell phone before you get in the car, avoid eating and drinking while on the road, and simply focus on the ride. Often, keeping your attention on driving alone is the critical difference between having an accident and arriving safely at your destination. 

11. Leave an item you won’t forget with your baby, especially on extreme weather days. 

Every year, infants die because of hot car accidents. Everyone assumes that it won’t happen to them. Often, however, those accidents occur because the parent is outside their usual routine and functioning on autopilot, often stressed or tired. If you’re off your usual routine, exhausted after several nights of short sleep, or ever forgetful, leave an item like your shoe beside your baby’s car seat as a visual reminder. 

Keeping a baby safe in the car is a big job, and sometimes, other drivers will not exercise the same caution around you and your little one. If you get into an accident due to another driver’s negligence, contact Alvendia Kelly & Demarest at 504-200-0000 as soon as possible.