It’s very important to know the right car seat safety guidelines if you have an infant!
From the time your child is born, he or she needs a car seat until age 12. There are many types of car seats, and the appropriate kind of car seat for a child varies based on a number of factors:
- The child’s age
- The child’s height
- The design of the seat
- The manufacturer’s car seat safety guidelines
Always consult the instruction manual before you use any car seat, even if it is very similar to one you’ve used in the past. Car seat safety guidelines are included with every car seat made by a reputable brand. These will tell you everything you need to know about positioning and using the seat safely.
When you are buying car seats for a child, don’t settle for a “no-name” brand online. Some online storefronts allow third-party sellers to list poor quality products. Double-check that your cat seat manufacturer upholds all the relevant U.S. safety standards.
Types of Car Seats
Many children really enjoy sitting in car seats, and switching to new ones over time can be a rite of passage.
Choosing the right types of car seats at different ages is crucial. Sizing your car seat correctly helps to ensure your child is fully defended in the event something happens on the road.
With that in mind, not all car seat types are suitable for all children.
Some common kinds of car seats include:
- Infant carriers
- 2-in-1 seats
- Toddler car seats
- Child car seats (also called booster seats)
Although there are only a few major kinds, they all have certain variations by manufacturer. Luckily thing that in the United States, all children’s car seats are required to meet very high safety standards. They may be tested in collisions, fires, and other situations to make sure they will protect a child well.
Let’s take a closer look at the kinds of car seats for children:
1. Infant Carriers
An infant carrier is usually used for children between birth and 12 months of age. These carriers include a handle so that you can easily carry them outside of your vehicle. Infant carriers are always installed in a rear-facing orientation. There are two ways to install them, with the seat belt or with a specialized base.
An infant carrier provides terrific side protection and is also very convenient for the parent. In general, it is safe and effective to use for as long as possible. When you want to switch to a toddler car seat, be sure your child is easily able to sit up for extended periods of time, since toddler car seats do not provide as much stability.
Infant car seats usually last until the child is about two years old and exceeds the manufacturer’s weight limit. It is also possible for fast-growing babies to exceed the height limit early. Be sure you know the design tolerances!
2. 2-in-1- Seats
A 2-in-1 seat is an alternative to a standard infant carrier.
With a 2-in-1 seat, you can use the same seat from infancy up to about four years of age. The seat comes with a special “baby insert” you can easily remove when it is time for your little one to graduate to a toddler car seat. Notably, you can keep your child rear-facing once they start using the toddler configuration of the 2-in-1 seat.
3. Toddler Car Seats
Toddler car seats can be used until the child is about four years old. Before you change from an infant carrier to a toddler car seat, check the height and weight limits of the seat you plan to use. Once your child’s head is about two fingers away from the highest point of the infant seat’s shell, it is time to switch. You should also switch if the infant seat’s shoulder belts are no longer sitting correctly as described in the instructions.
4. Child Car Seats (Booster Seats)
When is it time for a booster seat? The booster seat is the first front-facing seat, so don’t rush it!
Usually, a child is ready for a booster seat when:
- He or she is at least four years old
- He or she has reached the minimum height and weight requirements for a booster seat
- He or she is able to sit still without leaning forward in the seat, which reduces safety
The booster seat is the car seat a child uses for the longest period. A high-backed booster seat provides stronger side impact protection than a booster cushion alone. When children reach the age of twelve and have exceeded the maximum height and weight for a booster seat, they are usually ready to sit “the grown-up way.”
Rear-Facing Car Safety Seats?
Rear facing car seat safety is essential for young kids! Car seat safety mistakes can be hazardous.
Infant and toddler seats are oriented in a rear-facing position to protect your child. Rear facing car seat safety is better than front-facing, so the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration car seat safety guidelines recommends kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. This can usually be maintained until four years of age.
It’s not unusual for kids’ legs to hang over the end of their car seat or even touch the vehicle seat in front of them. Although many drivers worry about this, it is not actually a safety concern. Toddlers can remain very comfortable in rear-facing seats until age four, having more open joints and looser ligaments than adults.
Leg and hip injuries are much more common in front-facing than rear-facing seats.
Car Seat Belt Safety Facts Everyone Should Know
Once a child outgrows the booster seat, car seat belts should be used on every trip.
Let’s look at some valuable car seat belt safety facts:
- Seat belts reduce the risk of death and severe injury by about 50%.
- People not wearing a seat belt are a whole 30 times more likely to be thrown from a vehicle.
- Most drivers and passengers killed during a car crash were not using a seat belt.
- Seat belts save more than 10,000 American lives every year.
- All 50 states have special child restraint laws separate from their seat belt laws.
Car Seat Safety – Avoid Common Mistakes
Stay safe from car seat safety mistakes by following these tips:
- Once installed, make sure the car seat can’t move more than a single inch in any direction.
- For rear-facing seats, shoulder straps should be at or below a baby’s shoulders, not above.
- If you are able to pinch extra material at shoulder level, the car seat’s harness is too loose.
- Puffy winter clothing can add extra slack that will make a car seat harness less effective.
- All car seats have an expiration date (usually within 6-10 years) set by the manufacturer.
- Always prefer new, store-bought child safety seats to old, secondhand seats.
- Register your car seat so the manufacturer can alert you to any recalls fast.
- Don’t add toys, accessories, mirrors, or unapproved seat protectors to your child’s car seat.
- Always buckle up yourself to teach your kids safety habits that will serve them for life.
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