The right car seat can save lives, but parents, especially those expecting their first child, can easily become overwhelmed by the various types of seats on the market. Understanding the different seats, and when and how to use them, can help parents navigate their options. Choosing a car seat
There are various types of car seats, and each may be appropriate depending on a child’s age and size.
- Rear-facing: This is the best seat for young children, as it cradles the child to reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord.
- Forward-facing: This has a harness and tether that limits child's forward movement during a crash. It is typically used for children age 2 and older.
- Booster: This is a seat that elevates and positions the child so that the vehicle's seat belt fits properly over the child's body.
Seat belts are used when children outgrow boosters. They should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest.
Each type of safety seat has subsets that further customize the fit and positioning for the child.
When to use a car seat
First and foremost, visit a governing agency website to determine the laws where you live in regard to car seats.
The automotive agency AAA provides a state-by-state rules governing car seat use at https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/child-passenger-safety/. This can help residents learn which type of car seat is needed and how long to use it. For example, residents of New Jersey must keep children under age two who weigh less than 30 pounds in a rear-facing seat. Children younger than four who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in either a rear- or forward-facing child passenger restraint system. Children younger than eight and under 57 inches must be in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system or rear-seat booster seat. Booster seats are required until the child is age eight or weighs more than 80 pounds.
Installing the seat
Read the car seat instructions and refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for proper installation. Seats for young children utilize low anchors that max out at certain weights for installation. Most forward-facing and booster seats rely on tethers to install.
Child car seats save lives and help keep little ones protected on the road.