What you need to know about buying and using car seats for your child.
When used correctly, car seats reduce fatal injuries in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, eight out of 10 car seats nationwide are misused. It might be too loose, for instance, or it might face the wrong direction. The child might be incorrectly harnessed. It’s also critical that you’re using the right type of seat.
All car seats meet the same basic federal safety standards. Select the seat based on the child’s age, height and weight. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a chart that shows the appropriate style for your child’s age.
A booster ensures that the adult-sized seat belt fits correctly over the child’s hips and chest. Always use the booster with both a shoulder and lap belt. The lap belt should be flat and snug across the child’s upper thighs. The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder; it should not hit the child’s face or neck.
Before you use a booster, make sure the child is at the right height and can sit comfortably in the booster for an entire trip.
A secondhand seat might be useable if it meets all of the following criteria:
Do not add anything to the car seat or your car. For instance:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate-or-severe crash to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers.
You don’t need to automatically find a replacement after a minor crash, which is defined by all of the following:
Turbulence causes most airplane-related injuries. Your child is safer restrained in a car seat. Plus, when you reach your destination, you have the car seat to use while you travel.
If you purchased an airplane seat for your child, use a car seat that meets FAA regulations. There should be a label on the seat. Booster seats can’t be used on airlines.
Children are ready for the car’s seatbelt when they can sit with their bottom against the back of the vehicle seat with their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor. They should be able to stay in that position for the entire ride. Most children need to be at least 4-feet-9 inches tall. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend using a belt-positioning booster seat until the child can use the car’s seat belt, generally between ages 8 and 12.
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