Everything You Need to Know About Choosing a Car Seat

car seat safety

Thousands of children are injured in automobile accidents every year from faulty or improperly installed car seats. If you are planning on driving with a child in your car, learning how to select the right car seat and then properly install it is vital to your child’s safety.

Laws Regarding Car Seats

All 50 states in the U.S. require parents to use a car seat for newborns, and most mandate that seats for infants under a certain age are placed in the rear-facing position. The age at which a child transitions to a forward-facing seat or booster seat differs by state and usually depends upon a combination of weight and age limits.

Arizona, for instance, requires children under 4 to be secured in an approved child restraint system. Children aged five through seven and under 57 inches tall must also be seated in an approved car seat.

Connecticut, on the other hand, has one of the more stringent laws on record, requiring children under two years of age and 30 pounds to be held in a rear-facing restraint system. Children over two and in the 30- to 40-pound weight range are permitted to graduate to a forward-facing seat and must use an approved booster seat between the ages of five and seven or until they reach 60 pounds in weight.

Fines for failing to properly secure your child passenger start at $25 in states such as Delaware, Indiana, and Massachusetts, but top out at $500 in the state of Nevada.

How To Choose a Car Seat

All new car seats are regulated by the U.S. government to meet minimum safety standards. On the other hand, used car seats may pose serious safety risks.

If an older seat was manufactured before current regulations were set in place, it will not meet the minimum requirements in effect today. Also, used seats that have been in a car during a motor vehicle accident are considered unsafe to use under any circumstances. Micro-cracks or other damage that is invisible to the eye could compromise the structural integrity of the unit and put your child in danger during an accident.

Understanding the Types of Seats Available

To meet the various state requirements and ensure the greatest safety for youth passengers, car seat manufacturers have created three basic types of child safety seats, each designed for children of different ages and weights:

  • Baby/Infant Only – No children over 35 pounds should use this kind of seat. Additionally, they must always face the rear of the car. In most cases, these seats are easily removed, allowing parents to take the child from the car without unbuckling them from the seat.
  • Convertible/Infant Toddler – This seat design offers the greatest longevity., By allowing you to reconfigure it to accommodate children in both the rear- and forward-facing positions, manufacturers have created a seat that grows with the child. This type of seat is more difficult to transfer between vehicles and is too big to remove from the car with your child in it.
  • Belt-positioning booster seats – These seats are designed to fit children who are over the maximum weight limit for toddler seats but are still in need of a child restraint system by law or for maximum safety.

Proper Installation

A car seat does not accomplish its purpose unless it is installed correctly. This may seem simple, but it can be easy to install your car seat incorrectly without even realizing it.

Before installing your car seat, carefully read the instructions. Installation can vary slightly by seat, so you need to be familiar with yours specifically. Keep in mind that some of the most common mistakes are looping the seat belt through the wrong slot, failing to use locking clips, not making it tight enough, or not using seat belts altogether. You will know if the seat is put in correctly if it cannot be moved more than an inch when wiggling it side-to-side and back and forth.

Remember that Bolt Insurance Agency is here to help you keep your family safe. Auto insurance is one of your greatest assets when protecting yourself and others out on the roadways. To help you find the right coverage, we provide free quotes from multiple carriers through the BOLT Agency website.