“What makes a car seat safe?” This is the most asked question of every new parent shopping for this essential baby product. It is imperative that you choose the right car seat for your baby; it can make your life easier and it can even save your baby’s life. We’re going to go step-by-step through the top things to consider when buying a car seat: safety features; age, weight, and height appropriateness; and the major mistakes to avoid.
In order to get a high-quality certification, car seats must meet the safety requirements set forth by the law and pass an in-depth crash test. The goal of every car seat manufacturer is to create a car seat with passenger safety being a top priority. Here are some key features that you should look for when you go car seat shopping:
An easy-to-install car seat can save you a lot of sweat and tears in the long run. A popular option is the latch system, which is a newer car seat base system that installs the car seat in your vehicle without using the car’s seat belts.
- Push-on connectors, not metal hooks, should easily click in place to ensure they are secure.
- The built-in lock mechanism should be able to hold the car seat and the seat belt securely in place.
The Carseat Harness
A car seat could have either a 3-point harness or a 5-point harness system. Usually we recommend a five-point harness because it is the safest type of restraint protection. A five-point harness attaches to the seat in five different places: two located above the baby’s shoulders, one at each hip, and one between the legs of the baby. On the other hand, a 3-point harness system includes two straps above the shoulder of the baby and one between his legs. The height of the harness should be easy to adjust preferably with a dial or a knob. Harness straps that need to be re-threaded in order to be adjusted are more prone to user errors. The harness height of a rear-facing car seat should be just a tad below the shoulder of the baby and for forward-facing car seats, it should be above the shoulders of the baby.
No one wants to be in a car accident with a baby on board but you need to be ready just in case. Thus, your baby’s car seat needs to have crash-impact protection. This should include protection for side impact, as well as forward and rear impact, which helps promote child safety.
Age, Weight and Height Appropriate
Choosing the right car seat based on the age, height and weight of the baby is very important. Even if the car seat is complete with all the safety features but is not the right fit, it will not be safe for your child. Babies outgrow car seats very quickly. You should make sure your child can be harnessed in correctly at their current stage. Babies outgrow car seats very quickly. Each state has its own set of laws pertaining to what makes a car seat safer. Some states will even slap you with a fine for not securing your child in the proper car seat. Fine or no fine, having the right car seat is a must because it is a surefire life saver. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have a guide for which type of car seat to choose based on the age, weight, and height of your child. All car seats and children 12 years and below should always be seated in the back seat.
There are a few types of car seats to consider:
Rear-facing Car Seat
These are typically infant car seats or a baby car seat used during the first years of your child’s life. They’re mainly used from birth to two years old but your child should never exceed the recommended weight limit stipulated by the infant car seat manufacturer. This type of car seat will protect your baby in case of a crash and an infant seat should never be placed in the front seat. Something that’s cool about rear-facing car seats is that they sometimes can be purchased as “travel systems.” This means that the car seat can be easily moved in and out of the vehicle, and sometimes even fashioned as a stroller. This makes travel that much easier. Rear-facing car seats are better infant seats and baby car seats.
Forward-facing Car Seat
Forward facing car seats are for toddlers, aged from about two to four or five years old, and weighing no more than 40 pounds. Each car seat has a slightly different weight and height limit so make sure to look at that for each car seat you’re considering.
Belt-Positioning Booster Seats
A belt-positioning booster car seat is ideal for children four to eight years old, approximately. However, the child should not be taller than 4 feet 9 inches and should always sit in the back seat of the vehicle. This type of seat raises the height of the child so that the car’s seatbelt can properly fit him/her. Your child is ready for the adult seat belt if the lap belt is on his upper thighs and the shoulder belt is on his chest. These booster car seats have options for a backless booster seat or a high back booster seat.
A convertible seat is aptly named because it can be adjusted and converted into different types and sizes of seats (such as a 3 in 1). Basically, it’s an all in one car seat that grow with you child. Most feature removable (and sometimes washable) pads that can make the car seat more or less snug. This allows you to have one car seat for a longer period of time instead of buying a new one with each stage of life. Lots of these car seats are also compatible with strollers, making them a great option for car seat strollers or travel systems.
Major Mistakes to Avoid
When choosing a car seat for your little one there are rules on what makes a car seat safe. To make sure the car seat you choose is safe, here are two of the most major mistakes to avoid:
Buying or inheriting a second-hand car seat.
While it may be cheaper or even perhaps free, employing a used car seat means you run the risk of putting your baby in an expired car seat. Car seats usually expire after 6 years. This is because car seat materials receive a lot of wear and tear and models are tested for only a couple years worth of use. Plus, the required safety standards change as improvements in technology and research are released.
Buying the Wrong Car Seat
There is a right car seat for every stage of your baby’s growth. Additionally, buying a car seat that is not the right size for your vehicle can pose some safety concerns. Adding pads to make the car seat fit in your vehicle is a dangerous thing to do. A car seat for your baby is one of those products that really must be high quality. It keeps your child safe and comfortable when you take him along with you in the car. Choosing the right car seat is not as simple as choosing the nicest color and design. Optimally, you should have a child car seat that your child fits snugly in, straps that fit correctly and keeps him restrained/secured, and has impact absorbing padding. Topmost in your mind should be what makes a car seat safe – it could save your little one’s life.
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