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Car Safety: What is the Best Car Seat for Your Child?

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Most of the injuries and deaths were the result of lower-speed car accidents where children were not properly restrained in car seats. The proper use of car seats could have saved many of these victims from the cost and lifelong impact of these injuries, and saved many families from the horror of losing a child.

To avoid the devastating impact of these statistics, many states are tightening their existing car seat laws to require children who are under the age of six or who weigh less than 60 pounds to be transported in an appropriate and approved car seat. It's interesting to note that most tickets for failure to transport children in a car seat are given to people who actually have car seats, but neglect to use them!

There are various reasons and studies put forth to prove that car seats are essential for children, but only two reasons are of fundamental importance.

  • Reason Number 1: If a child is transported in an automobile without being properly secured into a car seat, that child's chances of being injured or killed is four times more likely than the chances for a properly seated child.
  • Reason Number 2: In every state in the United States transporting a child in an automobile without being secured in a car seat is against the law.

If your concern is for safety when you decide to purchase a car seat for your child, there is no need to worry about the seat itself. All new car seats sold in the United States today are required to meet the government's strict crash, fire, and safety standards. Most of the new car seats are designed with five-point harnesses that securely restrain the child at both the hips and the shoulders. In the event of a collision, the force is directed to the strongest parts of the child's body. There remains a concern, however, for the quality of the installation, which is critical for its proper use. If the seat you purchase is new, fits the child properly, and is properly installed, you can feel secure that your child is adequately protected.

Unfortunately, many of the older car seats still exist in the garages and storage spaces of grandparents. These seats and other older seats with outdated safety features should never be used. They are unsafe and always were. New car seats are more comfortable for the child. The required five-point harnesses provide much greater safety than the older seat-belt types, and the plastic tray was always a challenge to getting into and out of the car seat. The fact that parent's generation survived in them is simply a matter of luck.

Another improvement in car seat use is the placement of the seat in the car. No more are children facing front in the front passenger seat. The new standard is rear facing in the back seat, at least until the age of two years or when the child reaches a certain minimum weight which varies from state to state. The rear facing position provides added protection against the effects of whiplash upon the child's spine. Keep the child seated in this position for a long as is possible, as determined by his or her physical size. If a child in a rear facing seat has his head over an inch above the top of the seat, he is too tall to be facing the rear. If his shoulders are above the seat, the child is too big for the seat and should be moved into an appropriate booster type car seat.

The forward-facing booster type seats are provided with a safety harness. Once the child becomes big enough, the booster seats are designed to restrain the child in the booster seat with the car's standard seat belts. Naturally, as the child continues to grow, he or she will grow into the standard seat belts without use of the car seat at all.

To summarize, the best car seat for your child is a new seat that is designed to meet the current strict government regulations. When appropriately sized for the child's size and installed properly and securely, your child will be as secure and safe as possible for your short trips around town as well as those long drives to grandma's.

What car seat do you use for your child? What do you love most about that car seat?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Amy Brown was a stay-at-home mom and now she's an editor of Livesnet, a site offering baby gear reviews and tips on problems parents encounter in daily life. She's surely willing to share her own experience and tips. Please visit Livesnet and read her recent articles on best convertible car seat 2011 and The First Years Wave Stroller.

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Jen Tilley

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