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Latest Child Car Seat Guidelines You Should Know

One mom’s photo of a car accident and two child car seats recently went viral. From a crumpled up mess of a car, she and her two young children emerged unscathed. Emergency responders later told her that the outcome would have been different if she had not invested the time to properly secure her children in their seats. Child car seats are lifesavers when used in accordance with the latest child safety guidelines.

Selecting the Right Car Seat for Your Child

Every state enforces child car seat laws to ensure the safety of small children on the roadways. In Arizona, children under the age of 8 and all children 4’9 and under must ride in an appropriate child restraint system. Federal regulations dictate the manufacturing and installation of car seats.

In general, the NHTSA recommends the following guidelines for maximum car seat safety:

  • Infants and toddlers 3 and younger. These children should ride in a rear-facing seat that matches a manufacturer’s height and weight specifications for as long as they can.
  • Toddlers and small children. Young children should use convertible seats or forward-facing seats that feature a harness system and match height and weight specifications.
  • Children smaller than 4’9”. All children younger than 8 years and those smaller than 4’9” should use a booster seat to match height and weight specifications.
  • Children younger than 13. Older children who exceed 4’9” should continue to ride in the backseat of a vehicle until age 13. Children should always wear vehicle-installed seatbelts as recommended.

Many manufacturers offer regulation-friendly car seats. To ensure your seat features the latest safety technology, always purchase car seats new – not used. Modern car seats have expiration dates. Avoid purchasing any seat past its expiration date.

Best Practices for Installing a Car Seat

A car seat can only perform as tested if properly installed. Most local fire departments will install a child car seat for parents and inspect installations for peace of mind. If you install a car seat yourself, read both vehicle manual instructions and car seat instructions before you begin. You must use the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system or the vehicle’s seat belt to secure the seat within the vehicle. Some newer models feature a small level on the side of the seat to show the proper angle for anchoring.

After installation, check the base of the car seat system for a snug fit. The seat should not move more than an inch when jolted.

Best Practices for Using a Car Seat

Car seat safety goes beyond product selection and installation. Parents must remain vigilant to protect their children from the impact of a car accident. Use the following tips to secure your child in his or her seat on every ride:

  1. Check the latch. If using a car seat/carrier, double check that the seat latches when you set it on the car seat base.
  2. Remove heavy clothing. Bulky and heavy jackets or clothing can cause the seat’s harness to sit too loosely and jeopardize protection. If you want to use a blanket, place it over your child after strapping him or her into the seat.
  3. Ensure a snug fit. Many car seat harnesses adjust to accommodate growing babies and children. Each strap should fit smoothly over the shoulders and into the latch on the crotch strap. Tighten the straps so they fit snugly against the child.
  4. Do not trust an older child to latch himself or herself into the seat. Always check the harness for an appropriate fit and latch.

As the mother’s viral post shows, you never know when an accident will happen. They were only a few minutes away from home when the driver ran a red light and crashed into them. With the right seat, installation, and use practices, you can protect your child from most injuries in a car accident.


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