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Which Car Seat Should My Child Be In?

If you have been involved in a an SUV or car accident in the Tampa Bay area call Tampa Personal Injury Attorney, Martin J. Hernandez at 813-755-9500
Car Seat Safety

Car seats and boosters provide protection for infants and children in a car accident, yet car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13.  That’s why it’s so important to choose and use the right car seat correctly every time your child is in the car seat.

There are many car seat to choose from.  Do your research by looking at the different types of car seats and which one meets your child’s needs. A good place to start is to check NHTSA’s car seat recommendation for children.

A few things to consider are the following:

  • CHILD’S AGE AND SIZE: Choose a car seat based on your child’s age and size and then choose a seat that fits in your vehicle, and use it every time.  Things to consider: are your back seats bucket seats? Captain’s chair? Bench?  Not every car seat fits into all three of those seat types.
  • MAXIMIZE SAFETY: Keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible. As long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements, keep him or her in that seat until maxed out.
  • MAX OUT THE SEAT: Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
  • BACK SEAT: Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

An easy way to find the right car seat is to use NHTSA’s car seat finder calculator.

Should My Child Be in a Car Seat or Seat Belt?

No, children should remain in child restraint systems (car seats or booster seats) until they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches and weigh more than 80 pounds. Seat belts are designed to protect adults with a medium build and feet able to lay flat on the floorboard of the car. This does not often match the size of young children. Check the fit of a seat belt – correctly positioned, the lap belt should sit across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt should cross the chest, not the neck. A seat belt that is improperly positioned can be ineffective in keeping a child restrained during a crash or cause internal injuries in an accident.

What Types of Car Seats Are There?

There are about four types of car seats, while keeping in mind the following tips:

  1. Rear-Facing Car Seats
  2. Forward-Facing Car Seats
  3. Booster Seat
  4. Seat Belt

As your child grows, their needs will change. Make sure you use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age. With research, the recommendation is now to keep your child rear-facing until they are 4 or 5 years old and over 80 pounds.

Do All Car Seats Fit in All Vehicles?

No, not all car seats fit in all vehicles.  Make sure the car seat is the right fit for your vehicle.  I recommend testing the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well in your vehicle.

Types of Rear-Facing Car Seat

Rear Facing Car SeatThe best type of car seat for your young child to use is a rear-facing car seat.  It has a 5-point harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress or pressure to the child’s fragile and undeveloped neck and spinal cord.

  • Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing only): Designed for newborns and small babies, the infant only car seat is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing.  This is usually only used for the first year of the child’s life.  After the infant car seat, we recommend migrating to a convertible or all-in-one car seat, but continue using it in a rear-facing manner.
  • Convertible Car Seat: The car seat can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing with a harness and tether.  Because it can be used with children of different ages and sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.
  • All-in-one Car Seat: This seat can change (as the child grows) from rear-facing to forward facing and then to a booster seat.  This option also allows for children to remain rear-facing longer.

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Types of Forward-Facing Car Seat

Forward Facing Car SeatsThe forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash, thus reducing the chances of serious injuries or whiplash.

  • Convertible Seat: As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether.
  • Combination Seat: As a child grows, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether into a booster. In my opinion, by the time your child outgrows this seat, it will likely be very dirty, stained, nasty and well worn.  It is probably the best bang for the buck because you will use it for years.
  • All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows.

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Types of Booster Seats

Booster SeatsThe booster seat raises the child to a higher position (it literally boosts the child) so the child is raised higher off of the seat so that the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly over the stronger points of the child’s body: across the hips and chest.

  • Booster Seat with a High Back: This type of booster seat is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly.  This high back booster seat provides neck and head support and ideal for vehicles without high seat backs or without head rests (if that even still exists).
  • Backless Booster Seat: This also designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. This is one of most common types and can be moved around easily.  It does not come with back and head support and works well with vehicles with head rests.
  • Combination Seat: This seat gets the most longevity as it transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness to a booster.  In my opinion, by the time your child outgrows this seat, it will likely be very dirty, nasty stained and well worn.  It is probably the best bang for the buck because you will use it for years.
  • All-in-One Seat: Similar to the combination seat, it changes from rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows.

How Long Should My Child Be in a Booster Seat?

4 – 7 Years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8 – 12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should ride in the back seat until they are 12 years-old because it’s safer there!

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Seat Belt

The seat belt should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain your child safely in a crash.  It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck or face.

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