Signup for our newsletter to receive pregnancy, parenting and child health updates.

articles and blog

As much of a struggle as it can be to wrestle your child into his or her car seat, the importance of your child's safety in a vehicle cannot be ignored.

The Extent of the Problem

Between 2010 and 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting system identified more than 18,000 children under the age of 15 who were involved in fatal car crashes. What’s even more concerning is that a staggering 43% of the children who died as a result of these car crashes were also improperly restrained.

Your child’s car seat is one of the most important purchases you will ever make. Parents must understand not only what to look for in a good brand of car seat, but also when it’s time to upgrade and transition your child to the next, safer style of car seat.

The Best Car Seat is NOT The Most Expensive One

Car seats have come a long way in the level of safety they provide which means you do not need to purchase the most expensive option available. The ideal car seat is one that fits both your child and your vehicle in the safest way possible.

How To Find The Right Car Seat

Parents should verify their child’s height and weight before shopping for a car seat. Knowing which brands to trust and where to find verified product reviews from actual consumers can also provide some guidance. Consider asking other parents (friends, relatives) which car seats they have used in the past and perform additional research on sites like Consumer Reports and Amazon.

Understanding the Different Types of Car Seat Restraints

There are only four different basic styles of car seats on the market. Be sure to read the height and weight requirements for each style of car seat to choose the right one for your child.

Rear-Facing Car Seats (Under 1 year old)

Rear-facing car seats are the safest style of car seat for your child to travel in a car. The law requires children to remain in this type of seat only until age 1. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to keep their kids in rear-facing seats as long as possible (at the very least until age 2). Once your child reaches the maximum of the recommended height or weight range for that car seat, it is no longer safe for them to use.

Forward-Facing Car Seat (1-3 years old)

Forward-facing car seats position your child the opposite way from a rear-facing car seat. They also incorporate a harness and tether style restraint system to limit forward movement. The seat is also raised up to allow your child to see better.

Booster Seats (4-7 years old)

Booster seats utilize the standard seat belt in your vehicle instead of using a built-in harness and tether. Booster seats also incorporate a raised chair for your child to sit on. This style positions a normal seat belt to fit over the strongest parts of your child’s body.

Standard Seat Belt (8-12 years old)

Once your child is big enough, he or she can use the seat belts that come standard in your vehicle as long as the fit is proper. Lap belts must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. Additionally, the shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face. It is always safer for your child to ride in the back seat rather than the front.

Ratings and Recalls

Looking for your child’s next car seat? Check out the National Highway Traffic Safety’s rating guide to review a list of some of the most popular brands and models on the market.

Their website also keeps a detailed list of information about car seats recalls in the event your child’s seat is no longer recommended for use.

Buckle Up & Drive Safe

As much as your child may not like sitting in a car seat, it is extremely important to put their safety first and never let them go without one. You can even try explaining the importance of car seat safety to your child and why car seats are a good idea. Eventually your child will get used to the feeling of sitting in his or her seat and even look forward to going places in the car.

Jessica McCool, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Council Bluffs

Dr. Jessica McCool is a Family Medicine Physician who strives to get to know the whole family and care for every member from the children to the grandparents.       KETV Mommy Minutes ...

Learn more about this expert

Categories: health-notes,