In the USA and in most other countries there are very specific safety guidelines when it comes to car seat safety regulations so we know that they are all manufactured well and are designed for safety.
But there is more to choosing a car seat than that, no? And what about which kind of seat to put the child in and at what age to switch?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the following guidelines:
- Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
- Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions; read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
- To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
Please be sure to check each product's manufacturer's information (news about recalls and the like) along with its NHTSA rating.
Birth - 12 months
Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
1 - 3 years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
4 - 7 years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 - 12 years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
Description (Restraint Type)
A REAR-FACING CAR SEAT is the best seat for your young child to use. 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.
A BOOSTER SEAT positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body.
A FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash.
A SEAT BELT should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain the child safely in a crash. It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck.
Now, what about the safety for the unborn child? How do you keep him/her safe in the car?
Once again, the (NHTSA) comes to the rescue! Here is what they recommend:
If you are the driver
Move the seat back as far as possible
Make sure you can comfortably reach the pedals
Keep at least 10” between the center of your chest and the steering wheel throughout the entire pregnancy
If you are a passenger
If at all possible, sit in the back of the vehicle. It’s a lot safer back there
If you are sitting in the front passenger seat, move the seat back as far as you can
Don’t turn off the air bags (if your car has such a switch available)
Always wear your seat belt
Be sure the bottom of the seat belt sits below your belly, across your hips and pelvic bone
Wear the shoulder strap across the middle of your chest and away from the neck. Never put the shoulder strap behind your back or under your arm.
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