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Car Seat FAQ For Parents

Baby On Board

Adequately preparing a child for travel is extremely important to their safety. As such, it's imperative that parents and guardians invest in car seats, if their children are small and young enough to fit in them. Parents and guardians should be aware of laws in their state governing car seat use, and the various issues surrounding car seats, such as installation, placement and the appropriateness for a child's particular body. Replacement of car seats should always be done, if car seats suffer any damage. The following FAQ sheet is intended to give parents and guardians answers to 10 of the top car seat questions.

Q: Why should I use a car seat?

A: It's the law; though many states differ in their particular requirements. When you consider that car accidents are responsible many children's deaths, and that half of those deaths are due to unrestrained children in cars, buying a car seat seems like a smart investment to guard your child's health and safety.

Safety Belt Use Laws

Q: Is it safe to buy previously used car seats?

A: Generally, it's better to purchase a new car seat for your child, since you'll know its condition, have all the necessary information about it, and can return it, if you have problems with it. If you must buy a used car seat, you'll have to verify that it's never been in an accident before, all of its parts are functional and all markings and stickers are present on the seat. Get a copy of the owner's manual, and be aware that car seats that are more than six years old have the potential of not being up to safety standards.

Used Child Safety Seat Checklist

Q: Does my car seat fit my child?

A: The height and weight limits of car seats differ and, to find a proper fit, you'll have to take your child's age, height and weight into account. Specific installation procedures vary between manufacturers and models, so consult your car seat's manual for tips. You can also take your car seat to a inspection station to make sure that the it is protecting your child as well as it can.

Car Seat Recommendations for Children

Q: What is a booster seat?

A: A booster seat is for children that do not fit into their car seats anymore. It is a seat that raises the child up and supports him or her, so that he or she can safely use the seat belts in a car. Booster seats should be used until a child is at least 4'9"tall.

Booster Seat Safety

Q: Should my car seat be placed on front seat or on the back seat of my vehicle?

A: A car seat should always be in the back seat. There is some evidence that suggests car seats should be positioned in the center of the back seat for maximum safety.

Safest Spot for the Baby's Car Seat?

Q: How should I position my child's car seat?

A: You should position your child's car seat to be rear-facing. Car seats should remain in this position for at least two years, and until children meet the car seat's weight limit of about 40 pounds. Some car seats are specifically designed to be rear-facing.

Rear-Facing Car Seats Advised at Least to Age of 2

Q: What's the proper way to fit my child into a car seat's harnesses?

A: There are different criteria for rear and front-facing car seats. If you have a rear-facing car seat, your car seat will need harnesses that are at or below your child's shoulders. For a front-facing car seat, you'll want the harness straps to be at the level of your child's shoulders or above them. All types need a chest clip at the level of the armpits, and snug straps to secure the child.

Seat Check

Q: When should I replace my car seat?

A: Replace your car seat if it's been recalled, if it's over six years old, or if it's been in a moderate to severe car crash. You may not have to replace your car seat, if you have a minor accident, and it meets certain criteria. You should also look into replacing it, if items on the seat are nonfunctional or are fraying, and if your child has grown out of it.

Replacing a Child Seat

Q: When is it appropriate to introduce my child to a regular seat belt?

A: Children are usually safely introduced to regular seats and seat belts between the ages of 8-12. What is more important, however, is that your child is physically mature enough to sit in a seat and use the seat belt. Most children who are 4'9" can fit into the same seats that adults can, and can handle lap and shoulder belts, but children that are younger than 12 should sit in the back seats of cars, as it's safer for them.

Baby Center: When Can My Child Switch From a Booster Seat to Belts Alone?

Q: Has my car seat been recalled?

A: If you're concerned about your car seat's safety, you can call the U.S. Department of Transportation at 888-327-4236 or check its website for information about car seat recalls. The website offers interactive tools to make it easy for you to identify a recall. You'll need to know when the car seat was manufactured, who manufactured it, and the model number the company assigned to it.

NHTSA's Safety Recalls


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