Choosing the Right Car Seat
In the joy and excitement surrounding the birth of a child, it’s important to prepare a safe and secure environment. A quality car seat is as important as baby-proofing your home. Car seats are regulated in all 50 states, so it’s important to ensure your car seat will fully protect your most precious cargo. As a rule, your child is required to be in a car seat until 7 years old and a booster seat until they weigh 60 pounds or more.
New or Used
Car seats can be an expensive investment. It can be tempting to accept a used seat from family or friends. However, be wary; Safety experts suggest doing some research to ensure the used seat is safe.
Each car seat has a label showing the date of manufacture. If your seat was made more than six years ago, it may not meet current safety standards.
Several of the most popular brands have recently been recalled. To verify whether your seat has been subject to recall, check with the manufacturer or the Auto Safety Hotline, 888-DASH-2-DOT.
Does the used child safety seat have the instructions? One of the biggest safety issues with car seats is an improper installation by parents.
Does the seat show signs of wear
Avoid a car seat that has been in an accident. Even a minor accident can render the car seat unsafe. If the used car seat shows signs of wear or damage, it may not provide adequate security for your child.
If the used car seat appears deficient, in any way, consider a new seat.
New Car Seats
Child Safety seats vary depending on the age of the child. Consider the following points in order to select the right car seat for each stage of development:
1. Infant Car Seats
The infant car seat is designed for children 4-35 lbs. In April, 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their car seat recommendations. The new recommendations state that children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until 2 years of age, or they exceed the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of the child safety seat.
Currently, all infant safety seats are designed to support the back, head, and neck of a developing infant. The infant car seat must face the rear window in the back seat of the vehicle.
A child safety seat is absolutely necessary. In fact, a hospital will not let you bring your baby home without a certified child safety seat.
2. Convertible Car Seats
The convertible seat is designed to be rear-facing for children 5-40 lbs. and converts to a forward-facing seat for children 2 years and 20-70 lbs.
It has a bigger height and weight limit, so a baby can ride rear-facing until the recommended 2 years.
Once the manufacturer’s maximum weight and height limits are reached, the seat can be converted to front-facing.
When installing the car seat, follow the manufacturer guidelines. Make sure to place the harnesses in the right position per the instructions.
3. Booster Car Seats
The booster seat will secure your child between when they’ve outgrown the convertible car seat, and approximately 4-8 years old when they can use the car’s seat belt system alone.
There are 3 types of Booster Car Seats:
Combination Booster Car Seat
- A front-facing seat with a 5-point harness for children up to 65 lbs. When your child reaches 65 lbs., simply remove the harness and use the seat as a booster with the car’s seat belt system.
- As with all car seats, be sure to follow manufacturer instructions for the safety of your little one.
Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat
- Designed for children 40-100 lbs. It features full head support and raises the child up for a better fit. Designed to be used with the shoulder and lap vehicle seat belt system. Please note: the belt-positioning booster seat is not to be used with the lap belt alone.
No-Back Booster Car Seat
- Designed for children 40-100 lbs., and uses the vehicle’s seat belt system and head support.
When choosing your child safety seat, remember the five biggest mistakes parents make:
- Use the right car seat for the current stage of life. If in doubt, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for assistance.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the car seat, and properly tighten the straps and harnesses.
- Do not turn the car seat to front-facing prematurely.
- Properly use the safety seat straps, harnesses and clips to ensure your child’s safety.
- Read the instructions. This simple step can help you avoid many costly and devastating mistakes.
The choice of car seat is imperative for the safety of your child. It’s important to do your research and ensure the seat you choose will support and, protect your child in the event of an accident. A well-installed car seat can set the stage for many years of safe traveling.