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Which Safety Car Seat is Best for Your Child?

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On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 3:15PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Which Safety Car Seat is Best for Your Child?

New parents looking to provide the safest child car seat for their infant may find that there is more to selecting the best baby car seat than they initially realized, and to complicate matters more, there have been many recalls on seats that were deemed more of a safety hazard than anything. So, how do parents know they are getting the safest car seat for their child?

First of all, it’s important to select a car seat that is fairly simple to use; if you cannot get the belt buckled in a pinch, it will only bring frustration. You should get familiar with the mechanisms of your child safety seat before actually installing it in your car; that way if you have your hands full and the baby is crying, or it’s dark in the car and you cannot see the latching mechanism, you will know how to use it fast and efficiently getting the baby buckled into, and out of, the seat.

Some car seats have special features that enable the seat to be easier to use, including the behind-the-seat harness adjustment, harness straps that won’t twist up, and even some that have automatic tightening and tethering of the straps. There is usually a significant price difference in the seats with extra options.

When researching options, you may come across the acronym “LATCH” which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This feature utilizes tethers with clips on either side of the seat to attach to anchors instead of simply using the shoulder belt to secure the child seat. Cars build after 1999 should have at least two lower anchor points (in the crack of the back seat) where you can attach your LATCH tethers. LATCH is not inherently safer than the shoulder belt, but LATCH often gives safer installation because it tends to be so much easier to secure, and you can leave the mechanism in place without regular re-adjustment. Check your vehicle manual to see if you have LATCH anchors. Older model cars can be retrofit with the anchors, sometimes free of charge from a dealership.

Note that if you plan to have your child in the center of the backseat (which is the safest position in your car), you will probably have to use the seat belt system, even if your vehicle has LATCH. In most cars, only two LATCH positions are provided, one behind each of the front seats. Check your car's manual for further details. If you have to choose between LATCH on the side or the belts in the center, try the belts. As long as you get a good fit in the center, it is going to be your safest option.

If you decide to use the harness instead of the LATCH system, note that the harness needs to be adjusted as the infant’s height changes. Make sure the harness is not too tight; experts state that this is one instance where you need to read the manual to ensure the proper fit.

It is recommended to steer clear of used baby seats; the crash history of the seat (which does impact the current safety factor) is unknown.

Be aware that NOT all car seats will fit into every automobile seat design. Be sure to check the fit before you purchase the car seat (if the store will allow it), or find out about the return policy to be sure you can return the car seat if it doesn’t fit your car. There are so many different styles available to fit seats such as bench seats or bucket seats.

If you are wondering which baby car seat will best fit your car, check out this site, http://www.carseatdata.org/ . You can input the the make and model of your vehicle and the site will give you suggestions on which car seat will fit best. This site is fabulous for all the information you could possibly need about infant and child car safety seats.

The safety factor of any car seat dramatically goes down when the car seat is not correctly installed, no matter how expensive the car seat is.


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