Seated Safely: Choosing the Best Car Seat
Choosing, installing, and using a car seat can be confusing. Here’s some need-to-know information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- Infants should face backward in the back seat until they’re at least 1 year old and weigh 20 pounds.
- You can choose between an infant-only seat and a convertible seat.
Infant-only vs. convertible seats
- Infant-only seats are small and portable, but they can be used only until a baby weighs up to 20 to 35 pounds, depending on the model.
- A convertible seat is bigger and can be used longer, so it may be better for a larger baby.
- Once your child is at least 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds, she can ride forward-facing.
- With a convertible seat, though, she’s safest riding rear-facing until reaching the seats height and weight limits.
- If you decide to turn a convertible seat to face forward, you’ll need to adjust the shoulder strap slots, seat position, and seatbelt path.
- If your vehicle was made after 2002, it likely comes with the LATCH system, which will secure the seat without the use of seat belts.
Your child’s ready for a booster seat when one of the following is true:
He reaches the weight and height limits for his seat
His ears reach the seat top
His shoulders are above the harness slots
Safety Tips for Installation and Use
When installing a safety seat, make sure it’s buckled in tightly enough.
- Tighten the seat belt if the seat moves more than 1 inch from side to side or toward the front of the car.
Every time you put your child into a safety seat, buckle your child in snugly.
- That means using the right harness slots and tucking blankets in only after adjusting the harness straps.
Child Safety Seat Ratings
The NHTSA rates child safety seats in five categories:
- Ease of assembly
- Accurate labeling
- Understandable instructions
- Ease of installation
- Securing the child
You can find the NHTSAs latest ratings for several seats here: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/CSSRating/Index.cfm.
Not sure you’ve correctly installed your child’s safety or booster seat? Check it at a child safety seat inspection station. To find a local station, go to www.seatcheck.org, or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.
According to the AAP, some used car seats are still safe. Your used seat shouldn’t be more than five or six years old, and it should not have been in a moderate or serious crash. In addition, a used seat should have:
A crack-free frame
A label with a date of manufacture and the model number
All its parts.
Also, be sure to check that the seat has not been recalled.
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