Tips For Choosing The Best Car Seat

11/24/2011 10:13

Children in the United States between five and fourteen are more likely to die in automobile accidents than any other cause, and thousands more are injured every year. Many of these deaths or injuries could be prevented if parents had strapped their children into car seats correctly. Here are some tips to help you choose the right car seat for your child.

Never use a hand-me-down or used car seat. Safety standards change and technology continually improves. Though it might be tempting to save a little money, your child's safety isn't worth the risk. Accept those clothing hand-me-downs, and purchase new car seat.

Find the right seat for your child's age and weight. There are several kinds of car seats on the market. Infant car seats or "carriers" often come with a detachable base. The base is fastened securely into the car with the seatbelt, and the carrier portion lifts out so you can take baby into the house or store. You can also purchase infant seats that clip right onto your stroller. Baby seats, for children over 20 lbs and one-year-old are larger and stay fastened into the car all the time. Booster seats can be used by children who are 4'9" and taller.

If you travel often, make sure the car seat is FAA approved for air travel. Your child is much safer in his car seat when traveling on the airplane - if you experience turbulence, he'll be safely buckled in.

Install the seat correctly. Infants up to 20 lbs, or under one year of age should always ride facing the rear. Make sure to follow the directions carefully for installation - many parents think they have their car seat installed properly, but haven't followed all directions. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics website for proper installation instructions, along with other tips:

Check to see if your car seat has been recalled. You can call the Auto Safety Hotline at 888/DASH-2-DOT (888/327-4236) or visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at

Consider purchasing more than one car seat for your child. Properly installing a child seat can take time. If you have more than one car, or the child will be traveling often with grandparents or caregivers, purchase seats for each car. This will save you lots of time and ensure that each seat is installed correctly.

Replace car seats that have been involved in an auto accident. A moderate collision can compromise the safety of your child seat. The NHTSA considers a crash minor if all the following are true:

a. The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.

b. The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.

c. No one in the vehicle was injured.

d. The air bags did not go off.

e. You can't see any damage to the car safety seat.

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Always install child seats in the back seat, especially if your car is equipped with air bags. An air bag is deadly to a small child, even if they are in a safety seat. Some vehicles, such as trucks that only have one row of seats, are equipped with an on/off switch for passenger air bags. In this case, turn off the airbag.