Especially for new parents, choosing the safest car seat for your child can be a daunting task. There are so many options and if you are not sure what to look for, you may end up picking one that is not meant for your child.
Transitioning them as they grow is another thing you should be aware of when selecting the right car seat for your child.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
If your child is under the age of two years old, they should be in a rear-facing car seat. You can buy a rear-facing only seat or you can buy a convertible car seat which is designed to be used both rear facing and forward facing that will allow it to grow with your child.
All children should remain in rear-facing car seats as long as possible, even if they are old enough and meet the height and weight requirements to ride front-facing. No child under 30 pounds or less than 23 inches in height should ever ride in a front-facing car seat.
Front-Facing Car Seat
The time will come when your child simply cannot sit with their car seat rear facing. This normally happens around the age of 2 to 3 years. Children will then need to be placed in a front-facing car seat which is secured with a harness and tether.
The child should remain in a front-facing seat until they meet the maximum height and weight requirements for the car seat as recommended by the manufacturer.
Once your child has outgrown the front-facing car seat, they should be placed in a booster seat. This could happen as early as 4 depending on the child’s size but generally will take longer before it is safe to transition them. They should remain in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seatbelt comfortably.
Be sure that the seat belt fits properly before transitioning them from the booster seat. It should lie snugly across their upper thighs, not their stomach. It should also lie firmly across the shoulder and chest and not their neck or face.
For many children, they may not fit properly in an auto-equipped seatbelt until the ages of 7 to 12 years old. If the seatbelt does not naturally lie in these areas, they should remain in a booster seat. All children should ride in the back seat of the car, not the front seat. They are much safer riding in the rear of the car.
Installation and Inspection
Regardless of what seat they are in, be sure to read the manufacturers instruction thoroughly. Seats that are improperly installed are not safe. You should also take the time to have your installation inspected which is free of charge at almost all County Health Departments.
They have certified car seat technicians on site that will inspect or help you install the car seat properly.