A Guide Choosing A Car Seat
Unless you are only a walk away from the hospital, new parents need a car seat from day one (it’s required to leave the hospital—even if you’re taking a taxi). All 50 states require car child restraints, usually until the child is at least 7 years old and over 60 pounds or more. Since car crash injuries are the leading cause of children’s death in the US, many parents are very concerned about choosing a car seat. But choosing a car seat doesn’t need to be overly complicated. “All car seats currently on the market meet the U.S. government’s stringent crash- and fire-safety standards, so any car seat you buy new is technically safe.” And there are really only four basic types of car seats to choose from:
- Infant-only Car Seats: These face the rear of the car and have a weight limit of 22-35 pounds. A rear-facing infant seat should be newborn compatible. Rear Facing Infant Car Seats protects infants from collision injuries to the head, neck and spine.
- Convertible Car Seats: These are infant and toddler compatible seats that transition with the child when they are ready to go from backward facing to forward facing. They are often designed to hold a backward-facing child until up to 40 pounds, and up to 70 pounds forward-facing. “Most forward-facing car seats have a five-point harness system that attaches at the shoulders, hips and crotch. This helps distribute the forces of a crash across the strongest parts of a child’s body.” Remember that it’s safest to have a child face the back of the car until they reach the maximum allowable weight and height limits set by the manufacturer for that seat.
- Booster seats: Seats for kids from age 4 and who weigh 40 pounds or more. Boosters use the car lap and shoulder belts to secure the child.
- 3-in-1 Car Seats: This all-in-one convertible car seat is a favorite among parents because it goes from rear-facing to forward-facing, and then turns into a booster seat.
A great buying guide is the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s five-star rating system: “The more stars a car seat has, the easier it is to use. The NHTSA ratings take into account how easy it is to install the seat in your car and secure your child in it, as well as the content and clarity of the instruction manual.” Many parents also look for seats that are easy to adjust, easy to take out of the car, and easy to clean. Installing car seats is easy: If possible, position the car seat in the middle of the back seat of the car and attach the seat with the UAS or the car’s seat belt. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided in the owner’s manual.