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.
- NHTSA's Ease of Use Ratings – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a five-star rating system, enabling you to make the best choice possible.
- Keeping You Safe – Database – Check this database for recalls and reviews of child restraints.
- Child Passenger Safety Fact Sheet: Guidelines for Parents and Caregivers – This is a fact sheet on child injury and how it can be avoided with the right car seats.
- Choosing the Right Child's Car Seat – Woman's Day magazine gives recommendations for choosing the right car seat.
- Child Seat Safety – This hospital talks about the weight and height considerations to take into account when looking at types of seats.
- Can My 1-year-old Ride in a Forward-facing Car Seat? - This article talks about the transition period from rear-facing to front-facing car seats.
- Toxic Car Seats? The Best and Worst – This is a list of the top 5 and worst 3 car seats, and what makes them so dangerous.
- Rear-Facing Car Safety Seats: Getting the Message Right – Doctors analyze and talk about decisions regarding when to switch rear-facing car seats to front-facing car seats.
- The Pros and Cons of All-in-one Car Seats – When looking at the economical all-in-one car seat, keep these pros and cons in mind.
- Driving Safety Tips – Sometimes it's not all about just strapping the child in. The parent also needs to reduce driving risks and use some of these tips in making safe choices.
- 6 Things You Should NEVER Buy Used – One of the top items on this list is the child car seat – don't buy them used!
- Your Car Seat Safety Questions Answered – Did you know car seats expire? Find out facts about car seats that you need to know.
- 2013 Car Seat Check Report Card – Note that not all cars fit all car seats, and overcrowding is a bad idea.
- Child Seat Restraints (Multiple Topics) – This article can give purchasing power in knowing about how to protect your child.
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.
- Installing a Child Seat – This article has some great, simple advice on car seat installation.
- Fastening the Seat in the Car – This poster has some basic guidelines for seat installation.
- Tips for Installing Car Seats – Click the "guidelines" tab for instructions on how to install each type of seat.
- LATCH Safety System – This is a system that has been standardized since 2003, and used in recent vehicles.
- Get the Facts About LATCH: Securing Child Safety Seats – Follow these guidelines and tips for using the LATCH system.
- Car Seat Safety Tips from Drew Lachey – This article also includes a short video, which is an interview with musician Drew Lachey and his initiative with Buckle Up for Life.
- Safe and Secure – This article includes videos on the proper installation of each type of car seat.
- Top Car Seat Safety Tips – Look at the "inch test" and the "pinch test" to see if you've installed the seat correctly.
- Car Seat Checklist – Check off these 5 simple things before driving.
- First Ride, Safe Ride – This is about the proper installation of an infant's car seat.
- Air Bags and Child Safety – Children should always be in the rear seat. Infants especially should never be in the passenger seat.
- Air Bags: Not For Children – This article has further guidelines on how to avoid child injury due to air bags.
- Car Seats: Information for Families – This article has a great recap of all of the covered information, including types of seats, choices, and the proper installation.
- 5 Common Car Seat Mistakes – This is a list of common installation issues that parents have.