child safety

Child Car Seat Safety Ratings

How important are child car seat safety ratings to you?

Of all of the gear you will purchase for your baby, the car safety seat may be most important. It is crucial to ensuring the safety of your child when he travels in a motor vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of children three to fourteen years of age. While specific laws vary from state to state, all states require young children to be secured in a safety seat at all times when riding in a moving motor vehicle.

With hundreds of makes and styles, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which car seat to choose. Take the time to do your research - make sure the model you are considering has not been the subject of a recall (especially if you are considering buying used), never use a car seat that has been involved in a vehicle collision, and review the child car seat safety rating. Child car seat safety ratings are provided by the NHTSA and Consumer Reports. Ratings are generally based on crash protection, ease of use and fit to vehicle.

Additional considerations when purchasing a child safety seat include:

  • Your child's age, height and weight - children under the age of one and weighing less than twenty pounds must ride in a rear facing safety seat. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that babies remain rear facing for an extended period of time, through at least two years of age, as long as they continue to meet the weight limits for rear facing installation for the seat. Refer to the user manual provided with your safety seat to see the specific height and weight limits of the seat. Never use a safety seat that your child has outgrown.
  • Price - Safety seats are available in a wide range of prices. You do not have to spend a fortune to buy a good quality safety seat. All new safety seats currently on the market must meet government safety standards and pass standard crash tests.
  • Ease of Use - Make sure you choose a safety seat that is easy for you to install, to use correctly and that fits your vehicle. You will be more likely to use the safety seat correctly every time, if you can simply install it, adjust the straps and help your child in and out of the seat. Don't underestimate the importance of ease of use; take the time to do your research prior to purchase. The NHTSA provides a Safety Seat Ease of Use Rating, based upon four specific criteria: content and clarity of instructions, ease of use of the installation features, content and clarity of labels and ease of use of the child restraint features. User reviews on merchant sites where you can read opinions from other parents are another useful source of information.
  • Features - Child safety seats come with a variety of safety features. When comparing different models, look for the availability of features such as: five point harnesses, twist free straps, chest clips, harness adjustments, locking slips or LATCH systems, increased weight limits, recline and head impact protection.
The number one cause of safety seat failure is user error. Be sure to follow the instructions provided in the user manual to ensure proper car seat installation. You should also have your safety seat checked for proper installation at a child safety seat inspection station (often these are your local fire station, police station and/or hospital).

It is equally important to ensure your child is appropriately restrained in the safety seat; refer to the user manual to learn proper placement and adjustment of the restraint straps and clips.

The bottom line is, the safest seat is the one you will use correctly every time. Take the time to research and find the seat that works best for you and your child.

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