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Is Your Car Safe and Ready for Baby?

5 strategies to make sure your newest passenger is safe and secure in the back seat.
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profile picture of Anna Davies
Contributing Writer
Updated
September 29, 2022
dad carrying baby to car
Image: Getty Images

Just as you set up the nursery, it’s equally important to make sure that your car is prepped for your new arrival. Ideally, your car will be ready to drive a VIB (that’s Very Important Baby) well before your due date—more specifically, this is a must for your third trimester before 35 weeks. Having a car seat chosen, knowing how to install it and making sure that your car is as safe as can be helps give you peace of mind, starting from that very first ride home from the hospital. Follow the steps below to get your ride prepped for your newest passenger.

1. Compare car seats.

It can be confusing navigating the car seat aisle of a store or trying to compare online. Which one is the safest? Which one has the features you need? But a good way to reframe the comparison is to ask, “Which car seat best fits my vehicle?” For example, if you have a narrow back seat or need to fit two or three car seats in the same row, you may need a car seat that has a more slim design. There are online buying guides that can make suggestions, but if a car seat is challenging to install, or no matter what you do, it moves beyond one inch when pulled at the belt path, it’s not safe and may not be the best for your vehicle. Keep in mind, all car seats sold and manufactured in the United States have to uphold certain safety standards, but a car seat is safest and most effective when it is correctly installed (see our tips below).

Another thing to note: Car seats lose their safety efficacy on impact. That’s why it’s smart to steer clear from used car seats. Even if a friend swears the car seat was never in a crash, simply being dropped or stored incorrectly may make it less safe than a new seat out of the box.

2. Make sure your car is as safe as it can be.

Some parents like to buy a newer vehicle with more safety features, and it’s true that newer cars have specific features that can help protect baby. For example, many cars now come with a rear-occupant alert, reminding parents to check the back seat of the car if it senses there is a passenger in the back. Parents in the market for a new vehicle can use safety ratings to help guide their decision.

But if a new car isn’t in your budget, you can still maximize the safety of your current ride. First, check any recalls for the make and model of your vehicle by running your VIN number in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database. Next, get your car serviced and handle any problems now. If you’ve been lax about car maintenance, recommit to getting your car looked at on the schedule recommended by your manufacturer and address any concerns as soon as they pop up.

Consider sun exposure, especially if your baby is regularly going to be spending time in the car. Getting the windows tinted or buying a secure sunshade for the backseat can protect baby on particularly sunny days.

3. Update your insurance.

Confirm that your auto insurance policy is up to date and that you understand what’s covered. The what-ifs of becoming a parent can be pretty overwhelming, which is why State Farm® is there to recommend the right coverage for you and your growing family. Whether you need to discuss coverage on the phone or simply make a quick change online, State Farm is there for your what-ifs.

4. Feel confident in your car seat installation.

You’re going to need a car seat to leave the hospital (if you’re leaving by car), and you’ll want to have it installed well before your due date. Properly installed car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury between 71 to 82 percent for children—so the right install is crucial. Some fire departments and police headquarters have officers who are Certified Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians. They might offer certain days to check a car seat install; as do many hospitals. Safe Kids Coalition hosts car seat install checks around the country: Email them to get a list of resources in your area.

You can also hire a CPS technician to privately help you install your car seat. But even if you have the installation done by someone else, it’s important you know how to do it yourself, so that the seat fits snug and cannot move more than an inch in either direction of the belt path. Watch videos online, ask questions, and make sure you’re comfortable with how the car seat works and how to correctly buckle baby in.

You also may be tempted to purchase accessories for your car seat to make the ride more comfortable for baby. But mirrors, headrests, liners and anything sold separately from the car seat itself (also called after-market accessories) could make your seat less safe.

5. Do a clean sweep of the car.

In the event of an accident, any stray item on the floor of the car could become a projectile that could harm your baby. That’s why it’s important to make sure the interior of your car is clean, tidy and free of any debris. This also means saying bye-bye to hauling groceries and odds and ends in the back seat or the passenger seat, so you may need to do some experimenting to find a storage system that works for you.

What if you’ve selected a car seat for baby, but you’re not sure you have the right insurance coverage? Good news. State Farm is there for your “what-ifs.” You can reach them 24/7, file a claim on the State Farm mobile app or simply call your agent to ask anything.

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