With the variety of car seats available today, it can be confusing trying to find the one that’s best for your child. You may already know that you need to buy the right seat for your child’s height and weight, but there are many other factors affecting your child’s safety.
If you’re in the market for a new car seat, consider the following:
Even if you think you know how to install a car seat, always read the manufacturer’s instructions. About 96 percent of parents believe their car seats are properly installed, but seven out of 10 children are not restrained properly.
Most cars manufactured since September 2002 are equipped with the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children Restraint System. LATCH eases the process of car seat installation, but it’s still not foolproof. Different models of car seats may need to be installed at different angles.
Car seats can be expensive, so you may be tempted to keep your child in the same seat until it’s outgrown, but know the appropriate limits for specific age and weight ranges:
- Infants should be placed in rear-facing seats until they are 1 year old or weigh more than 20 pounds
- Toddlers can use front- or rear-facing seats appropriate for their weight and height
- Children who’ve outgrown a front-facing car seat should use a booster until they’re tall enough for a regular seat belt – approximately 4’9”, or about 80 pounds
All children who are not large enough to use the car’s standard seat belt correctly should remain in the back seat. Correct seat belt use means the belt doesn’t cross at the child’s neck and the child can sit with their back against the seat while resting their feet on the floor.
If a friend gives you a used car seat in good condition, complete with manufacturer’s instructions and all of its parts, you can feel confident in using it. However, if you buy a car seat at a resale shop or online, you may not know the history of that seat, like whether it’s ever been involved in a crash. And if you don’t have manufacturer’s instructions, you may be unable to tell if the car seat has ever been recalled.
To ensure any car seat you have offers your child the best protection, use a safety check list.
Many car seats come with additional safety features The Safety 1st OnBoard 35 Air, for example, has air-filled side wings. Convertible options are also popular; the Graco Highback TurboBooster has a removable back, allowing the seat to be converted into a booster.
Once you’ve chosen and installed a seat, if you still feel unsure about its overall safety, you can have it thoroughly checked at an inspection station. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help!