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Complete Guide to Car Seat Safety

Parents can spend hours agonizing over which car may be the safest make and model for their family. Then, shortly after, they may improperly install or buy used car seats. Every year thousands of children die or are injured in car accidents. Properly selecting and using car seats can help to prevent some of these injuries and fatalities in the event of a car accident. Car seat safety should be a top priority for your most important cargo, your family. Use the following guide for car seat varieties, purchasing recommendations, and installation tips.

Types of Car Seats

Child car seats generally come in three types, for three different age and weight ranges. Rear-facing car seats are generally used for infants a year or younger, front-facing car seats are for toddler years, and a booster seats are for later childhood. A seat belt can be worn safety when the shoulder belt does not lie across the face or neck. Convertible or all-in-one seats are sometimes available, which can be switched later on for more use.

  • Age Chart for Car Seats – This is an official source for information regarding the proper age and size of car seats.
  • Child Passenger Safety – The Colorado Department of Transportation provides this helpful chart outlining the law for the state of Colorado.
  • Car Seat Recommendations for Children – This is a great, quick guide with age recommendations.
  • Boosters are for Big Kids – The importance of the "booster" step is analyzed in this recommendation.
  • Booster Seats – This flier talks about the kind of booster seats and their purpose.
  • Car Seat Safety – Age and weight ranges for seat types are outlined on this page from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
  • Rear-Facing Seats – This video and article talks about why rear-facing seats are used, and their best practices.
  • Forward-facing Child Seats – Forward facing car seats should be used for children from 9 months old to 4 years old.
  • Buckle Up to Grow Up: One Stage at a Time – This article also talks about convertible and 3-in-1 car seats.
  • Child Passenger Safety – Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration provides this resource that talks about the types of seats in each category.
  • Buckle Up Kids – This brochure contains a variety of information, including what kinds of seats are available and how they are installed.

Choosing the Right Car Seat

Keep a child's age, weight, and height in mind when considering when to buy or when to change a car seat. When choosing the seat, be mindful of the materials that the car seats are made out of, the NHTSA rating, and whether or not the product has been recalled. It is recommended that you only buy new car seats, and not used or previously owned seats, as the products sometimes have been in accidents, or they have expired. Also, keep your car in mind and see if your car is compatible with the car seat's latching systems.

Proper Installation

Always read and follow product instructions, car manuals, and system recommendations when installing a car seat. Use the "inch" test and the "pinch" test to see if it has been properly installed. Also, always install car seats in the back passenger area, as front seats have air bags that can lead to infant or child death. If your car is relatively new, you will be able to use the LATCH safety system.

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