As a parent, your child's safety means everything to you. Choosing the correct car seat for your child's age and size is a huge part of keeping them safe from harm.
Too often, children are injured in car accidents because their parents inadvertently use the wrong seat, or don't install it correctly. Here are some things parents should know.
Choosing the right car seat
Children should ride in a car seat every time, and should always sit in the back seat. What type of car seat is best depends on the child's age:
Babies should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are 2 years old, or until they outgrow the rear-facing seat. You know your child has gotten too large is he or she exceeds the seat's weight limit, or if his or her head is less than an inch from the top of the seat's shell.
Preschoolers and early elementary age children should ride in a forward facing seat with a harness. Use this seat until your child outgrows the height or weight limits. Depending on their size, some children stay in a forward-facing seat until age 6 or 7.
Older children should use a booster seat that ensures the seat belt is positioned correctly across their body. Most children will use a booster seat until age 8 to 12. You know your child is ready to stop using a booster seat when:
- The child's back rests on the back of the seat, and knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat
- The seat belt crosses the child's shoulder and does not rest on the neck
- The lap belt crosses the child's upper thighs and does not rest on the abdomen
For more information about choosing the right car seat, Consumer Reports offers a helpful guide for parents.
Purchasing a car seat
Car seat manufacturers must meet strict safety standards. Because of this, there is a very good chance that any car seat you buy new will be a safe choice. However, not every seat works with every car,
With used car seats, you will need to be more careful. Car seats do expire, most about six years after manufacture. If the seat is too old, or if it has been in an accident before, it may not keep your child safe. It may also be subject to recalls, or be broken in a way the seller is not aware of.
Installing a car seat
Even the best car seat won't keep your child safe if it isn't installed correctly. Follow the instructions provided with the car seat and with your vehicle. A properly installed car seat won't move more than an inch in any direction.
If you need help installing your car seat, many New York government agencies will assist you. Check this list for locations in your area.