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What to look for when buying a car seat

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Car seat safety is important for everyone, but baby car seat safety should not be underestimated. Too many people don’t appreciate the fact that if your car comes to a sudden stop in an accident, any person not belted in will keep right on moving to certain injury or even death.   When you are in a moving vehicle, you are a separate body in space. Inertia is one of those pesky little laws of physics that we can’t afford to ignore. It’s the old physical law stating that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. If a car crashes going at a speed of 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained passenger is thrown forward with a force 30 to 60 times his or her body weight. Nobody can survive that without some help from a properly worn seat belt. A well-fitted baby or infant car seat will help ensure safer travel for you and your precious cargo for years to come. Follow these important tips:

  • * Make sure that your baby car seat or infant car seat is appropriate for your child’s weight and age.
  • * Make sure the harness on your infant car seat fits your child snugly and does not move up and down or side to side.
  • * Be consistent in the proper use of your child’s car seat. It can’t work if you don’t use it.
  • * A five-point harness system is safer because it distributes the force of an accident over a wider area of a child’s torso.
  • * Avoid used car seats, but if you do use one, make sure that it is structurally sound and without defect before using it.

Starting with model year 2002, many vehicles have been equipped with a car seat hook-up system called, LATCH. This acronym stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”. Vehicles offering the LATCH system have a built in attachment mechanism that secures the car seat in your vehicle. If your car does not have this system, then the baby car seat is secured by your vehicle’s seat belts. In general, the LATCH system is easier to use.

Remember high school? Before getting your driver’s license, you probably had to sit through some unpleasant films about the costs and hazards of driving under the influence. Driving without a properly secured child is just as risky. Some parents think that holding an unsecured child in their arms in a moving car is safe. The force involved in most accidents would make it impossible for the strongest parent from keeping an unbelted child in their arms. It’s that old problem of inertia once again.

For Better Safety, Look Backward.

Rear facing child seats have been proven to be safer. An infant car seat should have an incline of 45 degrees. If your car has low backed seats or no headrests, then a child seat with a higher back should be used to compensate.

There Are No Dumb Questions

Some parents are intimidated by the many brands of child car seats and the perceived difficulty of installing them properly. Asking questions costs you nothing. Ask your child seat retailer about the proper way to use it. If the person you ask doesn’t know, keep asking questions until you get to the person who does know. In many towns across the country, your local police or fire department will devote special days to teaching parents and caretakers how to install and use child and infant car seats. Don’t be afraid to approach friends and neighbors to enlist their support. Remember, your whole community will benefit!

Life Gets In The Way

Lets take a little reality check. As a parent, you’ve never been busier. You seem to have more demands and obligations every day and less time to meet them. It’s just too easy sometimes to not use a child car seat when you know you should. With some knowledge and practice, it shouldn’t take much time to secure your children in the car for every trip. It only takes one accident to make you wish that you had. Though using a child seat every time does take a little extra effort, it can be convenient as well. Some models include a design that lets them convert into a stroller for very young children. Multi-tasking parents should appreciate that.

Getting A Boost

A booster seat should be used when a child reaches a weight of 40 pounds and the seat is generally used with a lap and shoulder belt. If your child is underweight for his or her age, the booster seat should be used until they are big enough to use a standard seat belt.

Another thing to keep in mind when two cars collide is that the combined speed of both vehicles is doubled in a crash. That means that if two vehicles collide and they are each moving at 60 miles per hour, the combined force of the collision is 120 miles per hour.

Passenger Side Airbags

A main reason that children are safer in the back seat is that most cars today include a passenger side airbag in the front passenger seat. Airbags are designed to protect adults but they can be dangerous or even fatal to infants strapped into the front passenger seat. Never do this. An airbag can deploy at a force of over two hundred miles per hour in a crash.

Detachable Bases

If you are in the process of buying a car seat, an ideal solution for you might be a detachable car seat. This kind of car seat has a base, which stays attached inside your car without being removed until your child no longer needs it. The part that your child sits in detaches from the base and can be used as a child carrier when you reach your destination. This kind of improvement adds convenience and makes consistent use of a child or infant car seat more likely. Consistency equals safety.

The Educated Consumer

Finally, keep an eye on consumer ratings for child car seats before you make your purchase. Ask friends or relatives with children which seat they use and ask them if you can practice using it. Take advantage of manufacturers warranties and don’t be shy about contacting companies directly to offer feedback. Parents know just how important details are when raising a child. Buying a car seat is no different.

About The Author

Tim Norton is a college instructor and a freelance writer. Though originally from Portland, Maine, he has lived in Rhode Island for many years. He is the founder of the Providence Grays, a 19th century baseball team that demonstrates the game before 1900 for today’s fans.


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