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A Guide for Parents - Car Seats

In the event of a car crash, a child's safety can be significantly enhanced by the proper use of a child safety seat. The proper child safety seat is dependent upon the child's age and size, but it should be properly fitted and secured into the original seat of the car.

The child's safety seat will prevent him or her from being thrown around in the vehicle and will provide additional safety features for their particular size.

Child safety seats have been proven very effective in protecting children during a car crash. Research has shown that when child safety seats are properly used, they can reduce a child's risk for death in a car crash by as much as 28%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has done extensive testing regarding the effectiveness of child safety seats and determined that a child is much safer in a child safety seat as the head accelerations are significantly decreased and the chances of a chin to chest contact during the impact are significantly lessened, which significantly impacts the chances for serious injuries or death.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported child passenger deaths decreased by 43% from 2002 to 2011, and said the best way to save lives was using an age-appropriate child safety seat.

Different Child Safety Seats

There are several different kinds of child safety seats available. Each seat is designed to protect the child in the event of a crash, but the different design allows it to do its job in a different approach and using different methods.

  • Rear-facing: This seat is basically designed to face backwards in the backseat of the vehicle. The child is riding backward as the car travels. Rear-facing car seats are designed for infants as well as for young children, generally ages 1 to 3.
  • Forward-facing: This car seat is facing forward in the seat, and the child will be facing the front of the car. This seat uses a tether strap system, which is safer than a traditional car seat belt. This kind of seat is for children ages 4 to 7 years of age.
  • Booster seat: This is a small seat that gives your child additional height so the regular car seat belts will fit him or her properly and keep the child restrained during a crash.

Protect your child with a properly selected car seat

Choosing the Right Child Safety Seat

You want to familiarize yourself with the laws regarding child safety seats. Different seats are required for children of different ages. These seats are made by various manufacturers and some offer special features and designs, such as padded armrests or cup holders. Here are the basics on choosing a car safety seat for your child.

The most important things to consider when choosing a car seat is your child's size and weight. Not all four-year-old children are the same size, and you need to make sure your child fits in the seat properly so he or she is safely restrained.

You need to make sure the seat fits properly and consider what the child will be wearing usually when he or she is in the vehicle. Take off those heavy winter clothes and let the child ride in his or her regular attire, whether that is a onesie, a sleeper, or a pair of pants and shirt.

Make sure you properly adjust the belt to fit the child while dressed normally. Make sure the child's back is flush against the seat and ensure all straps are flat without knots and twists so you know the child will be held in the event of a crash.

Straps are designed to fit snugly, but not tightly. Make sure the chest clip is level with the child's armpits. If you can ensure all these things, you know that the car seat is a perfect fit.

Installing Your Car Seat

You need to make sure you properly install the child safety seat in your car so your child can benefit its results in the event of a crash. Make sure you read the instructions. You don't try to guess how things work or assume "it is right because it looks right". Your child's safety is involved so make sure it is installed right. A child safety seat should be placed in your car's back seat, which is the safest place for a child to ride.

You should get out your vehicle's manual and look to see your car is equipped with lower anchors that are built into the seats. Lower anchors will impact the installation process. If your car doesn't have the anchors, you will secure the child seat with the seat belts in your car.

Your owner's manual will tell you how to lock the seat belts after you have the child seat properly installed.

After you have the car seat secured, you need to adjust its recline. If your child rides in a rear-facing seat, make sure that its base is level in the traditional seat so the child's head will not be flopping forward.

Check your child seat for indicators on the side to help you with the placement of the seat and to ensure it is level. For additional safety, forward facing child seats have a tether strap at the top to provide additional safety.

Check for this and if it is possible, tighten the tether strap so the child seat is tight and your child's head won't move around in the event of a crash.

What to Look for When Buying a Child Safety Seat

When you are shopping for a child safety seat, there are several things that you need to consider. You have numerous options when it comes to child safety seats. A travel system offers multiple products in one package. When you get a travel system, you get the infant car seat, the car seat base, and a separate stroller.

You can turn the stroller into a carriage by snapping the infant car seat in place. After your baby has reached the point where he or she can sit up, you can remove the car seat and let the child ride sitting up in the stroller seat.

Other differences in child safety seats include the harness systems.

A five-point harness system is considered by many to be safer than a booster seat with a traditional seat belt. A five-point harness attaches at the shoulders, hips, and between the child's legs to keep him or her snugly strapped in so they won't move around as much during a crash.

While a child can legally move over to a booster seat at a specific age, there are some seats with the five-point harness design that will accommodate larger children. Car seats using the LATCH system use built-in straps and hooks on the car seat with anchor hardware in the vehicle, so the traditional car seat belts aren't used in the installation process.

The system is very effective and was designed to make the car seat installation process much easier and to improve the odds that the seat has been installed accurately.

Heading Down the Road

After you have installed your child's safety seat, you might want to ensure that it is properly installed. You want to make sure your child is as safe as possible in the car seat, so it might be a good idea to have an expert check, just in case. You can usually do an online search for the nearest inspection center or visit the NHTSA website, or your state's transportation authority's website, either of which may help you find . Many baby and children's stores have inspection dates scheduled regularly to ensure customer safety.