How to Make the Right Car Seat Choice for Your Child

Keeping kids safe while traveling in a car seems like a no-brainer. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree. Car seats can reduce the risk of injury in an accident by 71 percent to 82 percent, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says saves hundreds of kids every year. 

And while this goal has been a priority for parents everywhere since the automobile was invented, early versions of infant and child safety seats were lackluster at best. From a steel-and-leather contraption that was “useless in a wreck” to a tether that you tie to the child to keep “out of mom and dad’s hair,” it took many iterations to finally determine that the best way to secure a small child is by having them remain seated and buckled. 

In 1965, a mother patented a seat design that more closely resembles today’s child seats, while at the same time a Swedish inventor realized the benefits of having rear-facing seats. Finally in 1971, the NHTSA adopted the first federal regulations for child car seats.

Why Car Seats Matter for the Safety of Children

While it may have taken decades to get the car seat designs right, the importance never waned. Car crashes are the number one killer of children ages 1 to 12 in the United States. And what’s worse, 40 percent of children who should be in a child restraint are not in one. 

Arizona law requires all children under eight years old and under 4’9” to be properly secured in a child safety seat, which could include an infant seat, convertible seats, forward-facing seats or other federally-approved safety devices. If you are found to be in violation of Arizona State Law 28-907, you could face a fine up to $176 per violation.  

Safety Starts With Choosing the Right Seat

Car seats are essential for keeping your child safe on the road. However, to truly protect your child, you must ensure they have the right car seat for their size and age. Here are the steps to take to not only choose the right seat but install it correctly in order to keep your child safe:

Choosing a car seat for infants

The first car seat your child rides in should always be rear-facing, or facing the back of the car. Infant car seats can only be used in the rear-facing position. Other benefits include:

  • Typically very light and compact
  • Ability to detach the portable seat from the base and remove it while the base remains strapped in
  • Use with children weighing under 22 pounds 

The next style of car seat for an infant is a convertible car seat. Unlike an infant seat, convertible car seats do not detach from the base and are not meant to be portable. The versatility of these is popular with parents, along with these benefits:

  • Can be used rear-facing, then converted to forward-facing once the child is big enough and avoid purchasing multiple seats
  • Tests show that rear-facing convertible car seats provide better head protection for children age 1 year and older, compared with rear-facing infant seats

Choosing a car seat for toddlers

There’s no one-size-fits-all standard transitioning to a forward-facing position. The answer will vary depending on the weight and size of your child as they grow. For most children, the right time will come between the ages of two and three. Once your child is ready for a forward-facing seat, you will have several options.

  • If you already own a convertible car seat, continue using it as your child grows. For it to be effective with a toddler, you must simply reinstall the seat in the forward-facing position. 
  • Forward-facing car seats can only be used when a child outgrows a rear-facing option and is ready to sit facing the front of the vehicle. 
  • Combination car seats are forward-facing ones that can convert into booster seats once the child is ready. Like convertible car seats, this saves parents from buying an additional seat once their child has outgrown the need for a car seat.

Choosing a car seat for a school-age child

As with the transition from rear-facing to forward-facing, there’s no set time when parents should switch to a booster seat. Typically, booster seats are recommended for children weighing at least 40 to 60 pounds, which typically occurs between the ages of four and 10. Once again, you have a couple of options for your growing child.

  • If you already use a combination seat for your toddler, you can simply convert it to a booster seat. To do this, you will remove the safety harness from the car seat and secure your child with a standard seat belt.
  • Booster seats are only meant to be used as boosters. They cannot serve as car seats beforehand. Ultimately, the choice between a combination seat or a booster seat will likely come down to preference and budget. (Combination seats are generally more expensive than dedicated booster seats.)

Has Your Child Been Injured in an Accident? Contact Us Today.

Picking the right car seat isn’t enough on its own. You’ll also need to use your car seat correctly. But by following the right steps, you can minimize the danger and keep your kids safe on the road. Of course, accidents can – and do – still happen. If your child has been injured in an accident and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.