So You Think Your Child is in the Right Car Seat? Three Out of Four Parents are Wrong.

Do you think your child is in the right car seat? Well, if the latest statistics are correct, three out of four parents are wrong. With motor vehicle injuries being the leading cause of death among children ages 0-15, guessing is not an option. Many of these deaths can be prevented; it’s important that you, as a parent, make the right choice to keep your child safe. Per the research, age and size-appropriate car seats and boosters can reduce serious and fatal injuries by more than half – which is also important to car insurance companies.

That’s why you should make your decision carefully. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since there are an overwhelming number of car seat models from which to pick. To aid parents or soon-to-be parents make their choice, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has come up with a convenient Five-Star rating system. All car seats the NHTSA has evaluated and rated meet all Federal Safety Standards, as well as strict crash performance standards. The seats rated by the agency are all safe, however, they do differ in four basic categories:

  1. Instructions
  2. Labeling
  3. Vehicle Installation Features
  4. Ease of securing the child

First, plan ahead. Start by selecting a car seat that fits your child‘s current size and weight. Sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Also, keep in mind that as your child grows, the way he or she sits in your car will change.

When making your purchase, remember that not all vehicles are the same and neither are car seats. To be more specific, be sure the car seat you choose is right for the particular vehicles you drive. One size does not necessarily fit all. The last thing you want to do is struggle with the car seat in a heavy rainstorm. So, pick one that not only fits in the back seatbut fits securely, even if it means testing it. And, if it doesn’t fit, return it.

Which brings us to our next point. The purpose of comparison shopping is to have your final choice be the right one. At least in theory. Your new car seat should be easy to install so it can be used correctly on each occasion. If it turns out to be a hassle every time you try to use it, your child’s safety may be at risk. Again, return it and find one that’s hassle-free.

Furthermore, the type of car seat you need is broken down by age to help make your decision. Don’t forget, an improperly positioned car seat could result in a citation being reported to your car insurance company. Use the following guidelines for this purpose:

Birth to 12 Months

At this age, your child should be riding in a rear-facing car seat. Again, there are several types of rear-facing seats: Infant-only, convertible, and 3-in-one. The convertible and 3-in-one have higher height and weight limits, giving you the option of keeping your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 to 3 Years

Because it’s the safest position for your child, you should keep him or her rear-facing as long as possible or until they reach the top height and weight limits per the car seat’s manufacturer. Your child will be ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness once he or she has outgrown the rear-facing seat.

4 to 7 Years

Your child should remain in a forward-facing car seat with a harness in the back seat per the manufacturer’s allowable top height and weight limit. As soon as your child outgrows the front-facing car seat, it’s time to graduate to a booster seat but, again, it’s back seat only. Sorry, Junior.

8 to 12 Years

Once your child is big enough to fit properly in a seat belt, you can forsake the booster seat. In order for a seat belt to fit correctly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. For the shoulder belt to fit properly it must be snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross any part of the neck or face. The back seat is still the safest place, so that’s where they should continue to sit…even if they gripe.

Speaking of griping, are you sure you have the right car insurance coverage? If you don’t it could be costing you money. And, that’s worth griping about.