Rear-facing, forward-facing, boosters, convertibles … There are a lot of choices when it comes to car seats for infants and children. How can parents be certain they are choosing the right seat that will keep their child safe?
“Every car seat sold on the US market meets the current U.S. safety standards, no matter what brand or price,” said Heather Kelso, a certified car seat safety inspector with Sylvania Police Department. “Those standards have been met only after the manufacturer performs the crash tests required. The height and weight, as well as age, are specific for the car seat.”
Rather than relying on a child’s age, Kelso cautions parents to take their physical size into account when choosing a car seat.
“As a child grows, their age may not factor in as much as their height and weight because each child grows differently.”
Some Assembly (And Installation) Required
Purchasing a car seat is only the first hurdle. The next hurdle? Installing the car seat properly in the family vehicle.
“Following the instruction manual for the car seat and checking the vehicle’s manual (usually under ‘child restraints’) is the best installation tip I can give,” Kelso offered.
“The height, weight, age, as well as location where the seat is installed in the vehicle, all factor in. The best installation depends on those details, as well as what works for the family. A family may have multiple car seats or special needs, such as what side a school drop–off is on or who travels in the vehicle. All of these affect the installation. There is no general best installation type. It all depends on the seat and the vehicle.”
When In Doubt, Check It Out
Kelso urges parents to have their car seat installation inspected by a certified technician.
“Almost every seat that I have checked that has been installed by a parent or caregiver has been incorrect,” Kelso said. “Car seat installation may seem easy unless you realize there are many factors that go into a proper installation. There are so many different car seats and so many different vehicles. Making a seat fit into a vehicle can be tricky.”
An inspector will check both the car seat manual and the vehicle owner’s manual to ensure that there is less than one inch of movement from side-to-side.
“Each installation is like a little puzzle to make sure the seat and vehicle work together to get the perfect fit.”
Ages and Stages
A child will need a variety of car seat options as they grow. Kelso suggested a perfect time to consider the possibility of a car seat change.
“At each child’s well visit, I ask the parents to take note of their child’s height and weight. As they strap in their child after that visit, I tell them to check the recommended height and weight on the car seat label. That way, they will be more aware of when it’s time to transition to a seat that is compatible.”
Sylvania residents can make an appointment Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am to 4pm by contacting the Sylvania Police Department at 419-885-8902.
In Toledo and the surrounding area, parents can contact Safe Kids Greater Toledo at 419-291-7945 to schedule an inspection at the ProMedica Russell J Ebeid Children’s Hospital.
For more information on car seats and inspection sites, visit nhtsa.gov
Did you know?
- 325 children under the age of five are saved by car seats every year.
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for kids 1-13.
- 46 percent of car seats and boosters are used incorrectly.
- 42 percent of children killed in car crashes in 2020 were unrestrained.
- Children should remain in the back seat at least through age 12.
- A heavy winter coat can impede the car seat’s harness mechanism. It is best to cover a child after they are strapped into the car seat.