Any parent can tell you that their first priority is keeping their child safe. Among the numerous safety issues that parents must consider is vehicle safety. In addition to choosing the best vehicle, parents are also charged with choosing the best car seat or booster seat. With so many options, choosing the right one can get complicated. Here are three steps to helping you select the right car seat for your child.
1. Understand the Different Types of Car Seats
There are three main types of car seats, each with its own benefits: Rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats.
- Rear-facing car seats are most often cited as the best type of car seat. As stated by the NHTSA, “It has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.” There are several types available including the infant car seat, the convertible seat (converts from rear-facing to front-facing) and the all-in-one seat (converts from rear-facing to front-facing to booster seat).
- The front-facing car seat model is beneficial for older children who can no longer fit in rear-facing seats. This type of seat limits the child’s forward movement. Front-facing car seats are available in convertible seat, combination seat or all-in-one seat models.
- Last but not least is the booster seat, which is best for kids who are too big to fit in car seats, but still need to be restrained with more than just a seatbelt. These are available as a booster seat with high back, a backless booster seat, a combination seat, or an all-in-one seat.
2. Select a Car Seat Based on Your Child’s Age and Size
An important factor in child seat safety is selecting the right one for your child’s age and size. For starters, if your child is under the age of 12 months, it is recommended that they only ride in a rear-facing car seat. Between the ages of one to three, it is still recommended that your child ride in rear-facing car seat until they outgrow it. At that time, they can begin using a forward-facing car seat.
Children who are a little older, between four to seven years old, can either use a forward facing car seat with a harness or a booster seat. To determine which one is right for your child, be sure to check the height and weight limits issued by the manufacturer. Once a child outgrows the booster seat, usually between the ages of eight and 12, they can begin to use a seat belt alone. You can determine if they are big enough by making sure that the seat belt fits properly with the lap belt resting on the upper thighs and not the stomach. In addition, be sure the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder and chest and not the neck or face. NHTSA also recommends that children ride in the back seat of the car.
If you’re still not sure what type of car seat is right for your child, you can use NTHSA’s car seat finder tool by clicking here.
3. Research and Register Car Seats
Once you’ve determined which type of car seat or booster is right for your child, the next step is to research manufacturers and models. With so many options in the market, it can be confusing to figure out which car seat is the best one. The NHTSA has made this process a little easier by using a five star rating system, which is based on ease of use in the categories of evaluation of instructions, vehicle installation features, evaluation of labels, and securing the child. A rating of five stars is the best while one star is the worst.
After you’ve selected the safest car seat or booster seat for your child, you can register it with the NHTSA to receive e-mail alerts about recalls.
Despite your best efforts, a motor vehicle accident may be unavoidable. If you have been seriously injured, it’s a good idea to speak to a personal injury attorney who may be able to help you obtain compensation. A variety of factors may affect injuries, including both the vehicle’s and car seat’s safety features.
NHTSA, B. (n.d.). How to Find the Right Car Seat. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Car-Seat-Safety.htm?view=full