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Finding The Right Car Seat

Finding The Right Car Seat

Overview

Car seats and boosters provide protection for infants and children in a crash, yet car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. That's why it's so important to choose and use the right car seat correctly every time your child is in the car. Follow these important steps to choose the right seat, install it correctly, and keep your child safe.

Car Seat Types

Learn about the four types of car seats, while keeping in mind the following tips:

Rear-Facing Car Seat

 

Car seat rear-facing

 

 

The best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child's fragile neck and spinal cord.

    Types

    • Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing only): Designed for newborns and small babies, the infant-only car seat is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing. Most babies outgrow their infant seats before their first birthday. When that happens, we recommend that parents purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing.
    • Convertible Seat: As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.
    • All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.

    Forward-Facing Car Seat

     

    Car seat forward-facing

     

     

    Has a harness and tether that limits your child's forward movement during a crash.

      Types

      • Convertible Seat: As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether.
      • Combination Seat: As a child grows, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether into a booster.
      • All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows.

      Booster Seat

       

      Car seat booster

       

       

      Positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child's body.

        Types

        • Booster Seat With High Back: This type of booster seat is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It also provides neck and head support and is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs.
        • Backless Booster Seat: A backless booster seat is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It does not provide head and neck support. It is ideal for vehicles that have head rests.
        • Combination Seat: As a child grows, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster.
        • All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows.

        Seat Belt

         

        Seat Belt

         

        Should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain your child safely in a crash. It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck or face.

         

        Car Seat Recommendations

        There are many car seat choices on the market. Use the information below to help you choose the type of car seat that best meets your child’s needs or print out NHTSA’s car seat recommendations for children (PDF, 370 KB).

        • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, then choose a seat that fits in your vehicle, and use it every time.
        • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
        • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
        • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

        Rear-Facing Car Seat

         

        Car seat rear-facing

         

        Birth-12 Months

        Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats:

        • Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.
        • Convertible and all-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

        1 – 3 Years

        Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.


        Forward-Facing Car Seat

         

        Car seat forward-facing

         

        1 – 3 Years

        Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.

        4 – 7 Years

        Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.


        Booster Seat

         

        Car seat booster

         

        4 – 7 Years

        Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

        8 – 12 Years

        Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.


        Seat Belt

         

        Seat Belt

         

        8 – 12 Years

        Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

        Car Seat Installation Parts and Tips

        CAR SEAT INSTALLATION TIPS

        Your child’s safety could be in jeopardy if your car seat is not installed correctly. Before you install your car seat, make sure you’re familiar with vehicle and car seat parts used in the installation process.

        Vehicle and Car Seat Parts Explained

        Every car seat needs to be installed using either the lower anchors or a seat belt to secure it in place, never both. If you choose to use a seat belt to install your car seat, pay close attention to how to  “lock” your seat belt according to the vehicle’s owner manual. With a forward-facing car seat, use a tether if one is available. Before installing your car seat make sure you understand the function and location of the vehicle and car seat parts that are used in installation.

        Vehicle Parts

        Lower Anchors

        Used for installing a car seat using its lower anchor attachments

        The lower anchors are found in a minimum of two rear seating positions in a vehicle. Each lower-anchor-equipped seating position has two small horizontal bars found in the space between the vehicle seat’s back and bottom cushion (the “seat bight”).

        Tether Anchor

        Used for attaching a car seat's tether to the vehicle

        Typically there are a minimum of three tether anchors in a vehicle. In sedans, these are usually located above/behind the vehicle’s back seat on the rear shelf. In some larger vehicles such as vans, pickup trucks, and SUVs, these tether anchors may be found on the back of a vehicle seat, on the floor, the ceiling, or other location.

        To avoid confusing tether anchors with other hardware such as luggage tie-downs, be sure to read your vehicle’s owner manual carefully to find out where they are located in your particular vehicle.

        Car Seat Parts

         

        Car Seat illustration

         

        Attach top tether from the car seat to the tether anchor in the vehicle.
        Fasten lower anchor attachments on the car seat to the lower anchors in the vehicle.

         

        Lower Anchor Attachments

        Used to install the car seat in a vehicle with lower anchors

        Tether

        Used to secure a forward-facing car seat and limit forward head movement in a crash

        The tether is located on the top rear of convertible, combination, and all-in-one car seats. It’s adjustable and has a hook and strap that connects to one of your vehicle’s tether anchors. Most rear-facing car seats in the United States do not use a tether for installation. However, installations vary from model to model, so you must review your particular car seat’s instructions and your vehicle’s owner manual carefully.

        Follow your car seat manufacturer’s instructions regarding when and how to use the tether for your particular seat. NHTSA recommends always using a tether with a forward-facing car seat—installed with your vehicle’s seat belt OR the lower anchors—as long as it is permitted by both the car seat and vehicle manufacturers. IMPORTANT: Both installation methods are designed to work with the tether to achieve the highest level of safety for child passengers restrained in forward-facing car seats.

        Lower Anchor Weight Limits

        Lower anchors have weight limits set by the vehicle and car seat manufacturers. You can determine the lower anchor weight limit by checking the warning label or installation diagrams located on the side of the car seat. If your car seat does not have a label, you can determine the maximum allowable child weight for lower anchor use by subtracting the weight of the car seat (usually available in the car seat’s instruction manual) from 65 pounds.

        Lower anchor weight limit = 65 lbs – weight of car seat

        Know the Facts

        Once your child outgrows the vehicle or car seat manufacturer’s established limits for the lower anchors, stop using the lower anchor attachments and reinstall the car seat using the vehicle’s seat belt.

         

        *Article taken from https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats

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