Today, parents have several options when it comes to keeping their children safe while on the road. Understanding the benefits of each option can help parents decide what kind of car seat to use. A good driving school should explain this if you’re getting your first car seat.
1. Choose the right car seat.
Parents are encouraged to choose a car or booster seat based on their child’s size and age. It’s also important to make sure it fits well in your vehicle. Every car seat does not fit every vehicle. Be sure to do your homework and try before you buy.
Follow the instructions to make sure you’ve installed the seat properly. If you are unsure, ask another parent. In some cities, firefighters, police officers, and other government employees are trained to help install car seats. Check with your city government website to see what is available.
Car seats can be expensive, and it may be tempting to use your sister’s car seat that her kids have outgrown or to pick one up on Craigslist. Used car seats can save you money, but it’s important to ask questions and conduct some research before you buy. Here’s a checklist:
Ask if the seat was ever in use during a car accident. Unless it was a minor accident, pass on the seat.
Guarantee that the seat has all of its parts.
Only buy a used seat with an instruction manual or one that you can get from the manufacturer.
Make sure the seat hasn’t been recalled by the manufacturer. If it has, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if you call the manufacturer to find out if the defect can be fixed.
2. Know when to switch safety seats.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages parents to keep children facing the back of the car as long as possible. Convertible or all-in-one seats, as opposed to rear-facing infant seats, grow with your child and keep them in the rear-facing position longer.
Convertible seats can be switched from rear-facing to front-facing once the child outgrows the rear-facing configuration, somewhere between the ages of 1 and 3. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children stay in the rear-facing position until age 2 if at all possible.
All-in-one seats have both rear- and forward-facing options as well as a booster seat, which is recommended for children 8-12 years, or a child who has outgrown their front-facing seat. Kids should stay in a booster seat until a seat belt fits properly. Even then, consider keeping children age 12 in the back seat, which is a safer location if you are in an accident.
You can tell when a child has outgrown their seat when they have reached the maximum height and weight listed by the manufacturer. Keep all the paperwork for your seat, and be sure to register it so they can contact you in case of a recall.
3. Use car seats on public transportation.
Taxis and some buses have seat belts that may allow parents to fasten a car seat in place. If riding on a bus or train without seat belts, keeping a child in a car seat may offer some protection.
The Federal Aviation Administration and AAP recommend children under 40 pounds fly in a car seat. You should buy an extra ticket and make sure that your car seat is FAA-compliant. Be sure to find out if the airline has any specific regulations about flying with young children.