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A Guide to Child Car Seats

Updated on January 23, 2011

The Right Child Car Seat

 All babies and children must be in a car seat if they are in a car. Every single state mandates this. A parent who has a child in a car and does not have the child in a car seat can be heavily fined. Car seats are necessary for both infants and children to protect them in the event of a crash. A car seat provides the necessary support so that a child remains tethered to the car and does not crash into a metal part of it. Buying a child car seat requires attention to detail. If you have already purchased an infant or baby car seat, you have at least a basic knowledge of the subject. Child car seats differ in certain important respects from infant car seats so you should keep specific considerations in mind when buying one.

Booster Seat Basics

Most child car seats are a form of booster seats. Booster seats look very similar to standard seats in a car. The booster seat pulls the child upward and provides support in case of a crash. A booster seat also helps the child remain seated in case of a car crash. Booster seats differ from infant and baby car seats because they are not designed to work with a stroller system. Older children can simply climb into them. They can strap themselves in or a parent can help them. A booster seat is often quite lightweight. Many parents carry them on planes to use when arriving somewhere else. The booster seat simply attaches to the back in the rental car.

Safety Considerations

A child car seat should only be used by a child who is at least four years old and weighs forty pounds or more. Infants should be placed in an infant car seat that meets all safety standards. Infants should also be positioned in a rear facing car seat. Older babies who weigh at least twenty pounds can be placed in a forward facing car seat. Child car seats are designed for children not babies. The seat should provide sufficient back support and allow the child to remain secure as the vehicle moves. Shoulder and lap belts can be used with a child car seat. The shoulder part of the belt should lie across the chest rather than up by the neck. A child should continue to use a child car seat until they are eight or roughly four feet, nine inches tall. Never reuse a child car seat after the seat has been in a crash.

Picking a Child Car Seat

A child is old enough to participate in choosing a car seat. You can bring the child with you as you decide. Look for a model you can see outside the box. The fabric should feel smooth and not scratch a child’s delicate skin. Attempt to use the child car seat securing system outside of the box. Note how easily you can strap and unstrap it. Your child should fit comfortably in the seat.

Install a Car Seat Base


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      Lois Alker 5 years ago

      A booster seat allows a child to be positioned properly so that the shoulder and lap belts can restrain a child effectively in case of an accident. BUT, WHAT IS RESTRAINING THE BOOSTER SEAT from sliding under a child at the moment of impact? Surely a 50 pound child is not going to be doing that. I tried a little experiment, without the child in the car seat, I tightened the shoulder and lap belt, and to the best of my ability pulled them toward the front seat as hard as I could (no where near as hard as they would be pulled in a real accident). The booster seat not being tethered to the car, was totally sliding to one side. I agree with so many people who have already commented, that it is only common sense that the booster seat should be tethered to the CAR. Manufacturers please do something about this.