How to Find the Safest Child Car Seat

When you first find out that you are going to have a baby, the shopping frenzy begins. You have clothes, cribs, and bottles to buy (and about a thousand other things). But the single most important item you will buy for your baby is a car seat. However, with so many car seats available on the market, it can sometimes be overwhelming to decide which one to buy. You feel a lot of pressure to find the safest car seat for your baby, but you probably also have a budget you want to stick to. Luckily, there is some good news. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “The right car seat or booster fits your child and your car, and is one you will use correctly every time you travel.” Yep, that means that there is no one car seat that reigns above the rest.

Great! But how do I know which one will fit my baby and car the best?

Since you have to have the car seat installed before your baby is born, there is no way to test out how it will fit your baby beforehand. However, you should take the store’s floor model out to your car to make sure that is will fit in your car at the correct angle. Once you move up to a convertible car seat, always take your child with you to the store so he can test them out. Even if he can’t talk yet, his body language will let you know which one is the most comfortable.

Okay, I made sure to get the right fit, but how do I know I am using it correctly?

I’m glad you asked! Even if you buy the most expensive car seat on the market, it doesn’t matter if you are not using it correctly. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that 59% of car seats are being used incorrectly.

  • Follow height/weight limits. Every car seat has them and they need to be followed. Convertible car seats even have limits for rear-facing and forward-facing. You should keep your children rear-facing as long as they fit within the height and weight guidelines, which is usually until about 2 years old. As much as you want to be able to see their smiling faces while you drive, this will keep their neck, spine, and head safer in the event of a crash.
  • Make sure the straps are tight enough. The best way to tell if the straps are tight enough is to try to pinch the fabric at your child’s shoulder. If you can pinch any fabric, the straps are too loose. Additionally, they should connect to the back of the car seat slightly below the top of the shoulder. That way they will properly hold down your child if needed. Children are crafty, and if there is any leeway, they will find a way to get out.
  • The chest clip needs to be at armpit level. This is the most common mistake parents make. If the clip is any lower, it could cause a strap to slip off the shoulder. Not only that, but the ribcage offers protection in an accident that the abdomen will not.

By making sure that you get the right fit and are using your car seat correctly, you can rest easy knowing that your precious cargo will reach your destination safe and sound.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for the article. My daughter just turned 5 and she wights 15kg and nearly 2 meter. I was wondering if i still needed the car seat. So now i know i just need the booster. thank you

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