One of the places where your child is the most is also one of the most dangerous – the car. Each year, thousands of young children are either injured or killed from automobile accidents. By using proper car seat safety methods, parents can help to keep their children safe and secure.
Where do we even start? What kind of car-seat do I get for my child?
We know buying the right car seat can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, follow these guidelines to help pick the best one for your child. Age, size, and developmental needs should all be taken into account when choosing. And it’s important to remember that one size never fits all! The most important feature of your child’s car seat is making sure your child fits in it properly. There are various car-seats on the market, so hopefully this blog can provide a little ease when picking the right seat for your child.
Rear Facing – Infants & Toddlers
For infants and toddlers, we want to make sure that the car seat is rear-facing. This car seat should be used from the first ride home from the hospital until your child no longer “fits” into the guidelines found on the seat. There are three types of rear-facing seats – rear-facing only, convertible, and all-in-one. Rear-facing small, to be left in the car, and are used for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds and 26 to 35 inches. These types of seats should only be used for travel. Next are the convertible seats – which have the ability to be used as rear-facing and then front-facing when your child is big enough. These seats are designed to stay in the car and have a 5-point harness that attaches at the shoulders, hips, and between the legs. Last, we have the all-in-one seats that can be used as a rear or a front facing and as a belt-positioning booster. These booster seats are larger and are suitable for larger children up to 60 pounds.
What should I keep in mind when installing the rear-facing car seat in my car?
- Be sure that the harness is positioned at or below the child’s shoulders.
- Be sure that the harness is snug – there shouldn’t be room for you to bunch any slack from the strap
- Be sure that the seat is at the proper angle to avoid your child’s head going forward
- Be sure to check your vehicle’s safety manual
- Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a car
Front Facing – Toddlers and Preschoolers
As your child grows, his/her needs to stay safe are different than when they were smaller. As your child grows, they outgrow the recommended safety features (either through height or weight) of the rear-facing and require a front-facing. Front facing car-seats with a harness should be used as long as possible, usually until about 4 years old. There are different types of forward-facing car seats. The first type is the convertible, which can be used as both a rear-facing or a front-facing. There are also combination seats with harness. Front-facing seats with a harness are best for children between 40 to 65 pounds and seats without a harness used as a booster are best for children between 100-120 pounds. There are also integrated seats – seats that are already built-in to your vehicle. Be sure to check with your owner’s manual before using these seats. Lastly, the last type of front-facing is known as a travel vest. These serve as the best method when there’s only a lap seatbelt, for children with special needs, or if your child has outgrown the other car seat recommendations.
What should I keep in mind when installing the front-facing car seat in my car?
- Be sure to read your owner’s manual for your vehicle before installing the seat
- Be sure the harness shoulder straps are at or just above your child’s shoulders
- Be sure to check the recline angle to ensure the seat is in the upright position
- If using a seat belt, be sure it is through the front-facing belt path and that the seat belt is locked/tightened.
- If using the lower anchors, be sure your child’s weight does not exceed 65 pounds.
- Be sure to utilize the tether strap if able to. You will be able to find the tether trap at the top part of a car safety seat.
Booster Seat – School-aged children
Booster seats are used for older children who have outgrown the forward-facing seats. Typically, this is when your child is 4 feet 9 inches in height and between 8 to 12 years old. Most children do not fit in most vehicle seat belts until age 10 to 12, so using the booster seat ensures your child is safe in their seat. You will know if your child is ready for their first booster seat if they’ve reached the top weight/height for the front-facing seat, their shoulders are above the top harness slots, and their eyes reach the top of the seat. There are two standard types of booster seats: high-back and backless. These seats do not come with a harness but are used with both the lap/shoulder seat belts in your vehicle. Most booster seats will not be secured to the vehicle seat, but there are a few models that have integrated tether traps for a more secure attachment.
What should I keep in mind when installing the booster car seat in my car?
- Booster seats need to be used with both lap and shoulder straps
- Be sure to check your owner’s manual for your vehicle to ensure safe installation. Most seats will have a plastic clip/guide that helps correctly position it in the car.
- Be sure the lap belt is low and snug across your child’s upper thighs
- Be sure the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder – away from the neck.
- If your booster seat has tether straps, check its manual for proper installation in your vehicle
Seat Belts – All other children
Once your child has outgrown all of these seats, they are now ready to sit with just a seatbelt in the backseats. Once they are large enough, they should utilize both the lap and shoulder straps. All children 13 years of age and younger should sit in the backseats.
How do I know by seat-belt is fits correctly?
- The shoulder strap lies across the chest and the shoulder, not on the neck or throat at all
- The lap belt is low and tight across the upper thighs
- Your child is tall enough to sit with their knees bent over the edge while sitting upright.
If you have any other questions about your car seat and whether or not it’s the best fit for your child, we would love to help!