Investigate what style and size car seat is right for your child

Making sure you have selected and properly installed the correct style and size car seat for your child will provide maximum protection for your “precious cargo”.

New parents, expectant parents and even seasoned grandparents may be overwhelmed with the variety of child car seat types and models. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is vitally important that parents select the right car seat that fits both the child and the vehicle in which the seat will be installed. Equally important,is using that seat every time a child is transported no matter how short the drive may be, always making sure the seat is properly installed and the child is buckled in securely.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you become familiar with the child passenger safety laws in your home state and in other states in which you will be travelling with children. Consult the chart provided by Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) that offers a summary of what each state dictates in terms of child car seat type and its location in a vehicle for various ages of children.

Child safety experts recommend that children always ride in the back seat of a vehicle until at least age 12. Parents Central offers recommendations concerning at what ages children should be secured in a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat, a booster seat, or a standard seat belt.

Generally, infants up to one year should be transported in a rear-facing seat, secured in the back seat of the vehicle. Toddlers can transition to a forward-facing seat once they have reached the maximum height/weight allowable for their rear-facing seat. Children should continue using the forward-facing seat until they have again exceeded the maximum height/weight limits. At that point, use of a booster seat is appropriate. At about the age of 12 a child may be ready to use a standard seat belt. Youth can be injured by a poorly-fitting seat belt during an accident, as can small-statured adults. Therefore, the transition to a traditional seat belt should be based on the child’s height and weight rather than age. Refer to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations to assist in making this determination.

NHTSA even offers tips for seat belt use by pregnant women. When driving, they recommend the woman move the seat back so that her chest is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel, making sure, of course, that she can still comfortably reach the pedals. When a passenger in a car, pregnant women are advised to ride in the back seat if at all possible. If not, they are advised to move the front seat back as far as possible if riding in the front seat. The seat belt itself should be placed below their belly and fit snugly across the hips and pelvic bone.

If you are still unsure about what seat to purchase, how to correctly install the seat that you have selected or whether you have secured your child properly in the seat, certified child passenger safety technicians are available to help. You can find a link at NHTSA’s Parents Central where you can search for the nearest child passenger safety technician. Other links on that page will provide a list of child car seat inspection stations near you as well as a detailed explanation of the NHTSA’s ease of use rating.

Child Passenger Safety Week is celebrated each fall and culminates with a National Seat Check Saturday. This year, the NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Marketing division has designated September 15-21 as Child Passenger Safety Week.

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