The right car seat makes for a safer ride for chil­dren

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - Autotrends -

No mat­ter what is stored in the trunk, a driver’s most pre­cious cargo is his or her pas­sen­gers. Never is that more ap­par­ent than when chil­dren are on board.

Find­ing the right car seat can be chal­leng­ing. When used cor­rectly, such seats can re­duce the risk of death by as much as 71 per­cent, ac­cord­ing the Safe Kids World­wide or­ga­ni­za­tion. Whether you are buy­ing a car seat for the first time or up­grad­ing an ex­ist­ing seat as your child grows, be­ing in­formed can help with the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

Ac­cess pro­fes­sional re­views

A num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions rate avail­able car seats on the mar­ket. Consumer Re­ports and the In­surance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety are just two of the groups that pro­vide rat­ings that can take the guess­work out of se­lect­ing the best car seats. Reg­u­la­tions change fre­quently, and car seat en­gi­neers con­tin­u­ally mod­ify de­signs to keep kids as safe as pos­si­ble. Fre­quently re­visit car seat re­views to check whether your seat is still re­ceiv­ing high marks or if it’s time to in­vest in a new car seat.

Rear-fac­ing, longer

Many ex­perts now ad­vise keep­ing chil­dren in rear-fac­ing car seats as long as pos­si­ble — even up to age 2. Th­ese seats are be­ing man­u­fac­tured to meet higher weight lim­its in the rear-fac­ing po­si­tion. How­ever, al­ways ver­ify the ex­act height and weight limit for the seat by read­ing the in­for­ma­tion book­let or the safety data that is printed di­rectly on the seat.

In ad­di­tion, know how to safely use the seat, in­clud­ing which teth­ers should be used in which seat­ing po­si­tions. Chil­dren should sit in the back of the ve­hi­cle away from airbags.

Learn proper in­stal­la­tion

Consumer Re­ports notes that about 80 per­cent of par­ents and care­givers mis­use car seats in one way or an­other. Fol­low the di­rec­tions for safe seat place­ment and po­si­tion­ing of teth­ers and safety belts. You can watch videos on­line on how to in­stall safety seats prop­erly, and many seat brands may di­rect you to an in­for­ma­tional video. Some First Aid and po­lice squads of­fer com­pli­men­tary seat checks to re­as­sure par­ents that seats are in­stalled cor­rectly.

Older chil­dren in booster seats, which are de­signed to po­si­tion pas­sen­gers cor- rectly to make use of the ve­hi­cle’s seat belts, should have a proper fit. The lap belt should lie flat and on top of the thighs. The shoul­der belt should rest di­rectly in the mid­dle of the shoul­der and not too close to the neck.

Know the types of seats

Chil­dren may go through three or more safety seats be­fore they’re al­lowed to safely ride us­ing the ve­hi­cle’s own pas­sen­ger re­straint sys­tem. In ad­di­tion to in­fant car seats, man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer con­vert­ible seats, har­nessed seats, belt-po­si­tion­ing booster seats, and built-in safety seats. Many chil­dren are ready to bid farewell to car seats when they reach about 4-feet-9inches tall.

Avoid used seats

Un­less you can ver­ify the full crash his­tory of a car seat, it is best to buy it new rather than from a thrift store or on­line from a third party. Although car seats do not “ex­pire” in the tra­di­tional sense, they are stamped with a use-by date. Ma­te­ri­als in car seats can de­grade over time, and har­nesses may stretch. It’s wise to re­place car seats af­ter sev­eral years and treat a new baby in the fam­ily to his or her own car seat in­stead of us­ing a hand-me-down.

Car seats can pre­vent in­juries and death. They’re one of the best safety in­vest­ments par­ents can make, as long as they’re re­searched and used prop­erly.

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