Car Seat Guidelines: 3 Important Tips in Choosing the Best Car Seat
The safety of your child while riding in your car is of the utmost importance. You must ensure that the car seat fits perfectly in your vehicle and provides comfort and safety for its passenger.
Each state has its own set of laws pertaining to car seat safety, but all states in the U.S. require that when in a car, infants and children have to be in safe car seats. The requirements largely depend on the age of the child as well as his/her height and weight.
Choose the right type of Car Seat
When talking about choosing car seats based on the age, height, and weight of the child, car seat guidelines speak of rear-facing car seats for infants, forward-facing seats for toddlers and booster seats for older children.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
This is the best type of car seat for young children as they are designed with babies in mind . Most come with a 5-point harness system, and they also move and cradle with the child during a collision to protect him/her.
Experts say that rear-facing car seats are the safest car seats. The latest car seat guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) stipulates that you should place your child in a rear-facing car seat until he is about 2 years old. It can also be until he has reached the maximum weight and height requirement as suggested by the manufacturer.
Most rear-facing car seats can be attached to a chassis (with or without adapter) to create a travel system.
Convertible Car Seats
This is ideal for toddlers roughly between 8 months old to about 4 years old. Convertible car seats can work both as rear-facing and forward-facing car seats. They can accommodate a child of up to 40 pounds when used rear-facing and up to 70 pounds when used as a forward-facing car seat. Some even convert completely into a booster seat. They tend to be a little bit more expensive than your average car seat, but for a car seat that grows with your child, that's money saved in the long run.
As your child grows, his/her sitting position will change too. Around age 4, it's time to upgrade to a booster seat. Because these seats do not have a harness, your child will be using a seat belt for the first time.
Booster car seats come with either a high back and backless options. A high back booster seat usually comes with head and neck support, which is ideal when your car does not have a high back or head rests. This type of booster car seat enhances the height of the child to ensure that the seat belt perfectly fits her. On the other hand, a backless booster seat has no neck and head support. It is ideal for vehicles with high back and head rests. Just like the high back type, this booster seat enhances the height of the child so the seat belt will fit perfectly.
Matching a Car and a Car Seat
Not all car seats on the market will fit all vehicles. Before choosing the best car seat, make sure that it will fit well inside your car and can be easily and properly installed.
Most car seat manufacturers have a car fitting list that you can refer to to determine if the car seat fits inside your car. Remember that it's not just a matter of the car seat fitting inside your car; the car seat must correctly fit inside your car.
You should also be mindful of where in the car you will install the car seat. These are the things that you need to consider in deciding if your car seat is the right fit for your car.
- Never install a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
- There should be enough free space around the car seat.
- Never use a lap belt to install a car seat.
- Anchor points of the car’s seat belt should easily secure the car seat.
- The length of the seatbelt should be long enough to embrace a rear-facing car seat.
- Make sure sloping seats and backrests do not get in the way of firmly securing the car seat.
Following What the Law Says
All the states in the US require all parents to adhere to the Child Passenger Safety Laws. Laws and fines vary from state to state. Most states require that children sit in the rear seat of the car as much as possible. Most states also allow children based on their age, weight, and height to start using the car’s built-in adult seat belt.
Non-compliance of the Child Passenger Safety Laws has corresponding penalties ranging from fines to demerit points in the parent’s driver’s license. These again vary from state to state.
While car seat laws and car seat guidelines in the U.S. vary from state to state, these laws and guidelines also vary from country to country. The United Nations, however, has implemented an international standard in car seat safety.
The UN-ECE Regulation 44/04 is enforced in over 100 countries. Car seats are categorized into 4 groups. Each group includes the recommended age, weight, and height of the child in reference to the type of car seat required.
Car seats need to be approved based on the governing laws of the state of purchase. Approval is usually carried out by independent authorities and includes passing a crash test. Car seats that pass these processes are deemed safe based on the car seat guidelines of the approving authorities. An official label of approval is often seen at the rear part of the car seat.
As a parent, the safety of your child each time you place him in your car is your responsibility. A safe car seat is one that is suited for the age, weight, and height of your child. The car seat should also install perfectly in your car.