What is a car seat?
Child safety seats or car seats are seats designed specifically to protect children during any collisions in a motor vehicle. Usually, these seats are purchased and installed by parents but a certified car seat installation technician is the best. There are several types of car seats available out there, and there are several points to learn before shopping for a car seat.
Why We Need a Car Seat?
The short answer is that, it’s the law but more important, though, making your child travel in a car seat is an important investment in his/her safety. Studies show that children who don’t ride in car seats are up to four times more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash, and acording to statistics motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of children from ages 1 to 14 so It is very important that you have a car seat when you have a baby or a small child. In most states the hospital will not let you take the baby home unless you have a car seat installed in your car. You can read more here: NHTSA: Traffic Safety, Child Passenger Safety Program.
Which is the Best Car Seat?
This is the most frequently question and unfortunately there is no answer. There is no one single best child car seat for all children and vehicles. The accepted principle by experts is;
The best car seat is one that fits in your vehicle correctly, is one that you can afford, is the right size for your baby, and one that you can use properly when your baby rides in the car.
Of course budget is very important too but you must know that the price of a car seat does not always make a difference. A high price usually means more features but these features can make the seat difficult to use too, the safest car seat is one that you will use easily and correctly in every travel. You should keep your child in a car seat or booster seat for as long as possible.
If a car seat is sold in the United States, it must first pass federal crash tests, even the cheapest, have to pass the same basic crash tests. Extra features, like locking clips that are built in and straps that prevent twisting, make the car seat easier to correctly install. Proper installation is most important. A car seat is safe for your child only if it is properly installed.
Types of Car Seats
There are four basic kinds of car seats in the market: infant only, convertible, forward facing and boosters.
Infant Car Seats
These car seats are portable and smaller than other types. They usually offer the best fit for infants. Infant car seats can only be used rear facing and usually hold up to 20 lbs. Many are now sold with added features such as detachable bases and ability to attach to strollers to form travel systems.
Infant Car Seat Features
Detachable base: Many infant car seat models come with detachable bases. These bases stays attached in the vehicle and you simply unlock the upper part, the seat. When you are ready to drive again, you buckle your newborn in the seat and lock in the seat to the base. This is great feature which saves your time. One other great thing about this feature is you can buy additional bases to leave in different cars.
Harness slots: Infants seats that come with more than one, usually 5-point harness slot to give more room for your growing baby and extra safety.
Handles: Infant seats usually have carrying handles since they are usually detachable; these handles vary in style and ease of use.
Infant carriers: Most infant carriers come with bases that can be installed separately in the car seat so that the carrier is installed or removed from the base without taking the baby out of the harness easily.
Recline: Some car seats have built-in recline adjustments which may help get the necessary 45-degree recline for newborns.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats can be used by both infants and older children who weigh as much as 70 pounds. Convertible car seats also known as 3-in-1 convertible car seats can change from rear-facing to forward-facing, then into a booster seat for children up to 100 pounds.
Important facts about Convertible Car Seats
They do not fit newborns as well as infant seats do
They are usually bigger and heavier than infant seats but can be used longer
Can be used rear-facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers and some of them can be used as booster seat.
Forward Facing Car Seats
These seats are strictly forward facing (Cannot be used rear-facing) and they are for children over one year of age or over 20 lbs. Forward Facing car seats cannot be used for newborns or infants under 20 lbs. They are best to use for child is at least one year old and a minimum of 22 lb.
Booster seats are generally for children over 40 lbs or around the age of 4, these can have harness system, regular seat belt or a lap shield. An important note is, the middle of the child’s ear should not be above the back of the vehicle seat, headrest or booster seat.
Car Seat Features
There are a number of important things to consider before choosing a car seat for your child. All car seats meet existing government safety requirements and pass standard crash tests but some features can really improve the safety, ease of use and comfort.
Five-point harness: This type of harness is the safest one according to the experts. Studies agree that the 5-point harness gives the best fit and reduces the chance of ejection during a collision. This has five straps: one on each shoulder, one on each thigh, and one between your child’s legs. They should be adjustable as you will want to change the harness as your baby grows.
Adjustable front harness: There are models that have a mechanism that adjusts the tightness of the harness on the front of the car seat.
Head impact protection: Most car seats have an added layer of EPS foam or special material, similar to that used in protective helmets. This improves the safety in side impacts, rear impacts and rebounds in frontal crashes.
What to look for when buying a car seat?
If a car seat is sold in the United States, it must first pass federal crash tests. Select the one that best fits your child, your car and your budget.
Easy installation: Find a car seat that’s simple to use and install.
Belt adjustments: Avoid car seats that require you to adjust the buckle from the back of the seat. The better car seats allow you to make adjustments from the front.
LATCH (Lower anchors and tethers for children): Since 2002, all car seats and cars use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. This system allows you to fasten the car seat directly to your car or truck instead of using a seat belt. Installation is easier and safer with this system. Convertible car seats should have a top tether and also bottom straps. Some convertible car seats do not recommend using the top tether strap when the seat is in the rear-facing position. Please read and follow your car seat’s instructions.
Washable Cover: Buy a seat with a detachable machine-washable cover to make your life easier.
Comfort: Safety is first but your baby will enjoy a more comfortable ride if you buy a well-padded seat with plenty of head and back support. So when you find a safe car seat also make sure it is also comfortable for your child.