Baby Car Seat Mirrors: The Good, the Bad, and the Potentially Dangerous
The safest choice is to keep mirrors and other baby accessories away from car seats. But if you do opt for a mirror, there are essential safety tips to keep in mind.
Most parents will find themselves alone in the car with their baby from time to time. And unlike that tentative first car ride home from the hospital — when one parent sat in the back keeping an eye on the baby and the other drove way too slowly — when you’re alone in the car with a baby, you have to keep your eyes on the road. Hearing a baby cry in the backseat can make a parent feel powerless to help — which is why so many parents find comfort in using a baby car seat mirror. Unlike rearview mirrors, they allow parents to see babies sitting in rear-facing car seats. By glancing back at your baby, you can reassure yourself that they’re only crying because of a dropped binky or misplaced toy.
But that convenience doesn’t come without risks. Baby car seat mirrors provide a tempting distraction, encouraging parents to look away from the road. “Anytime you take your eyes off the road, you put yourself and your child at risk,” says Gina Duchossois, an injury prevention expert with the Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Chair of Safe Kids Southeastern Pennsylvania. “It only takes a second for cars to stop suddenly in front of you, someone to change lanes, merging traffic or other hazards that you may miss in that second. A parent can be distracted enough to be involved in a car crash and should keep their eyes on the road at all times.
Plus, car seat mirrors, like other car seat accessories, are not governed by any federal safety standards. Many are labeled “crash-tested” or “shatterproof,” but since there are no standardized tests to evaluate these claims, we can’t know for sure how safe they are. While most car seat mirrors attach to the headrest of an adult seat, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, warns against those that attach to the actual car seat, since, he says, these kinds of accessories “fundamentally change the way the child fits in the seat.” In the worst-case scenario, they could make a car seat less effective. Duchossois takes it a step further, discouraging the use of any accessory besides those that come with a car seat.
Another question left for parents to parse, without standardized testing, is how these products will act in the event of an accident. “Some manufacturers of unregulated items can claim that their product meets all safety standards because there are no standards that apply to them. Some will crash-test their products, but if they are not tested by the specific car safety seat manufacturer with a specific car safety seat, these tests cannot be trusted,” Hoffman says.
In a car crash, anything in the car that’s not tightly secured can become a projectile, Duchossois says, so a car seat mirror that’s loose or heavy can be particularly dangerous. “The heavier the mirror, the more restraining force will be needed to keep it secured,” Duchossois says. She also worries that in a frontal crash, as the car seat moves towards the front of the vehicle and then rebounds back, it could collide with a mirror attached to the seat, causing injury to the child.
The instinct to want to glance back at your baby while in the car is understandable, but it’s not necessary from a safety perspective. “If your car seat is installed correctly and the infant is correctly harnessed in the seat, it is not necessary to worry,” Duchossois says. If you really can’t stand hearing your baby cry and not being able to see them, there are some criteria to keep in mind for finding the safest car seat mirror. “If a parent makes the choice to use a mirror, it should be lightweight and have soft edges. Also, it is critical to make sure it is securely fastened to the vehicle headrest so it doesn’t dislodge and become a projectile,” Duchossois says.
The Best Baby Car Seat Mirrors — If You Must
All of these mirrors have soft edges and are more lightweight than other options on the market. None of them are terribly adjustable, since the pieces that enable mirrors to be tilted tend to add significant weight, but they large enough to provide a good view of your kid. They also have multiple straps and clips for securing to a headrest, as opposed to a flimsy piece of velcro found on some mirrors. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road.
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