Understanding Your Child's Car Seat

In the US, car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury among children under 12. The proper car seat – installed and used correctly – is the best way to protect wee passengers. Are you doing it right?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of people who think they have their child in the right car seat is significantly higher than those who actually do. Fortunately, with the right information and a few basic guidelines, car seats can be a snap (and a click).

Get the right seat
There are three types of car seats: rear-facing (infant), forward-facing, and booster. Before purchasing any car seat, make sure it is compatible with your vehicle(s). Not all car seats fit in all vehicles.

Any child under the age of one should always ride in a rear-facing infant seat. Shop around … some infant seats adjust to accommodate higher weight and height limits so you can use the safer, rear-facing position for a longer period of time. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s weight and height recommendations to be certain you are using the appropriate seat.

Install it right – use it right
All car seats, regardless of type, are safest installed in the back seat. Before you begin installation, read both the seat’s manual AND the car seat section from your vehicle’s manual. A properly installed seat should be fastened tightly, meaning no more than one inch of travel, front-to-back and side-to-side. When securing a child in a seat, all harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and run through the appropriate slots. Again, consult the seat’s manual to ensure that the child is harnessed correctly.

Don’t overlook registration
When products like car seats fail to comply with safety standards or have a defect, a recall will be issued. Although recalls are rare, it is very important to take precautions. Be sure to register your car seat with the NHTSA; registration is easy by the mail or on the web. It’s also a good idea to sign up to receive email recall alerts from the NHTSA. Just remember, in the event of a product recall, manufacturers are required to notify you.

Know the resources …
Getting your little co-pilot safely over the river and through the woods doesn’t need to be complicated. There are many, many resources available to ensure many safe and happy miles ahead.


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