Car Safety Seat
Having a car safety seat is not only a necessity for ensuring the safety of your child in the car, but is also a mandated law in all 50 states in the United States. Parents and caretakers are required to secure their child in a car safety seat up until 18 months of age, with some states requiring some form of approved restraint up to age 3. Even stricter states mandate that all children be in a car seat or seat positioning booster seat until the child reaches 60 pounds (27.2 kg). No hospital will allow new parents to leave with their newborn child without one properly installed. Choosing a child safety seat should be based on three factors: how it fits the child’s age and size, how it fits into your car and affordability. All car safety seats on the market must conform to minimum federal guidelines on safety, but there is a variance on the type of materials used for safety and aesthetics. Other extra features, such as ease of positioning the straps, type and quality of fabric, storage, cup holders, headrests, etc. will also affect your choice.
Infant-only car seats
Also known as baby seats, infant carriers and rear-facing car seats, this type of car safety seat is designed for newborn babies up to 20 pounds (9 kg) and 12 months of age. Experts recommend that babies remain in rear facing infant car seats until they reach 20 pounds and 12 months. The seat locks into a base which is strapped into the car’s seat either using the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system found in cars made since 2003, or the car’s safety belt. For ease of installation, the base typically will have a level that shows if it has been installed correctly.
The seat itself reclines to accommodate an infant’s weak neck, and has a large handle for easy of transport outside of the car. This is why the rear facing infant seat is also referred to as an infant carrier. While all infant car seats will have a similar design, with a five point restraint system, they vary widely in color and fabric. Infant only car safety seats can be purchased separately from $45 US Dollars (USD) to $225 USD, or as part of a travel system, starting around $150 USD.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats, or infant-toddler car safety seats are designed to make the transition from newborns — requiring a rear facing car safety seat — to front facing toddlers. This type of car safety seat can be secured in the car in the rear facing position, then turned to face front at the appropriate weight and age. Some models will vary slightly on weight limits, but generally, for rear facing, the acceptable weight range is 5 to 35 pounds (2.27 to 15.88 kg). For front-facing, the weight range is generally 20 to 40 pounds (9 to 18.14 kg). All convertible car seats have five point harness systems, and specially designed padding and materials designed to absorb the impact of a crash. Extra features such as armrests, cup holders and recline positioning are also available. Convertible car seats range in price from $50 to around $300 USD.
Belt Positioning Booster Seats
Booster seats are designed to raise older toddlers and young children to a height where a regular lap and shoulder belt function properly. While not all experts agree when a child should be transitioned into a booster seat, manufacturers typically set the lowest acceptable weight at 35 pounds (15.88 kg), up to a maximum 100 pounds (45.35 kg).
Booster seats vary in design. Some are simple seats with arms, that rest on top of the car’s seat. Others look like convertible car seats, with high backs and arms. They may even have a five point harness system that can be removed when used as a booster seat. Once converted to a booster seat, the shoulder strap of the car’s seat belt can be threaded through a slot near the child’s shoulder, ensuring that it hits at the correct place. Booster seats start as low as $15 USD, and range to over $300 USD.
Written by O. Wallace
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