In most states, such as Texas, any motor vehicle passenger under a certain age has to ride in a child passenger safety seat system.
The type of system depends on the age, weight, and height of the child.
The following are some of the main things to know about car seat safety.
Types of Car Seats
The following are some of the types of car seats available, which are primarily divided by age.
- Infants and toddlers should use rear-facing seats only or rear-facing convertible. All infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing seat until they’re the highest height or weight allowed by the manufacturer of their safety seat. Most convertible seats have limits for kids to ride rear-facing for at least two years.
- Toddlers and preschoolers might ride in forward-facing seats with a harness or forward-facing convertible seats.
- School-aged children whose height or weight exceeds the forward-facing limit for a safety seat should use a booster that positions the seatbelt properly.
- Older children can use seat belts if they are large enough for it to fit them properly.
- All children under the age of 13 should ride in the backseat.
Car seats are installed with either the seat belt of a vehicle or what’s called LATCH systems. LATCH stands for lower anchors and tethers for children.
LATCH is an attachment system where lower anchors are used instead of a seatbelt to install the seat. A lot of parents find they’re easier to use than attaching a car seat with a seatbelt.
The top tether is used with forward-facing seats.
Almost all cars made on or after September 1, 2002, are equipped to use LATCH.
The standard recommendation is that all infants ride rear-facing. An infant or a toddler should stay rear-facing until they’re the highest height or weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Most convertible seats have limits allowing children to ride rear-facing for two years or longer.
When you’re using a rear-facing seat, the harness should be in the slots that are either at or below your baby’s shoulders. The harness should be snug so you can’t pinch any slack between your fingers when you’re testing the straps.
The retainer clip of the seat should be placed at the center of your child’s chest, in line with their armpits.
A convertible car seat can be used rear-facing initially and then converted to forward-facing when your child outgrows the rear-facing option.
Convertible seats are bulkier than an infant seat, and they don’t come with a carrying handle because they’re meant to stay in the vehicle.
A convertible seat will typically have a higher rear-facing weight limit and there is usually a five-point harness attaching at the hips, shoulders, and between the legs.
If you use a convertible seat, it should only be for vehicle travel and not for anything outside the vehicle.
An all-in-one seat can be used both rear and forward-facing, and it can also be used as a booster to position the seatbelt.
They will, as a result, have higher weight limits, but they also tend to be larger in size so you’ll need to make sure this will work in your vehicle if you’re considering an all-in-one seat.
Installing a Car Seat
Your child’s car seat should be installed in the back seat and away from airbags.
It should never be placed in the front seat because an airbag can cause serious harm.
If you have a vehicle with only one row of seats, you should turn the airbag off.
If you only have one car seat, it should be in the center of the back seat if possible.
Before you install a car seat, read the manual and instructions carefully.
There should be no more than an inch of movement from side to side or front to back once the seat is installed.
When your child is in a rear-facing position, you want them to be semi-reclined. This will keep their airways open and prevent their head from flopping forward.
Finally, don’t be too anxious to move to a forward-facing position. The longer you can keep your child rear-facing, the safer it is. During the winter, make sure you remove bulky coats and blankets before securing your baby in their car seat. These can prevent straps from fitting snugly enough.