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Child Seat Choices for Your Ride

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author photo by Jody DeVere, President, AskPatty.com November 2007

With the summer holiday around the corner and likely a lot of driving ahead of you, child safety should be in the forefront of your mind. But what, with all the preparations and planning to do, it might be the last thing you are thinking about. We've put together some great tips with the help of The Car Seat Lady - for you to keep in mind this summer when you are buckling in your kids.

There are two basic types of car seats; rear facing and front facing. But which do you use and when is it best to use each type? We've got some straightforward answers for you here.

Rear-Facing Basics

  • Rear-facing kids are 4-5 times safer than those riding forward-facing.
  • In a perfect world everyone should ride rear facing since it is so much safer but especially infants and toddlers.

What type of seat should the rear-facing child use and where should I put it?

  • Infant seats typically accommodate babies up to 20-22 pounds (a few go to 30-35 pounds).
  • Convertible car seats accommodate rear-facing children up to 30-35 pounds and forward-facing children up to 40 or more pounds.
  • The center of the back seat is statistically the safest place of the vehicle, as you can not take a direct impact.
  • If the car seat does not fit securely in the center, and/or there are other children riding in the back seat, it is often necessary for the rear-facing child to ride on one of the side seats.
  • Rear-facing children MUST ride in the back seat if there is a passenger airbag in the front.

When should a child switch from rear-facing to forward-facing?

  • When they are too big for rear-facing in their convertible (not infant-only) car seat (i.e. they are 30-35 pounds OR their head is within 1 inch of the top of the car seat).
  • It is perfectly OK for the rear-facing child’s feet to touch the back of the vehicle seat * it is NOT a source of discomfort or injury.
  • The baby must be at least 1 year old and at least 20-22 pounds before going forward-facing.

Forward-Facing Basics

  • Older kids who have outgrown the rear-facing capacity of their convertible car seats must ride forward-facing.
  • These children should be not only at least 1 year old AND at least 20 pounds, but actually should be around 30-35 pounds or tall enough so that their heads are within 1 inch of the top of their convertible seats. Children should not turn forward-facing until they outgrow their convertible seat's rear-facing height and/or weight limits.

Where should I put a forward-facing seat?

  • The center of the back seat is statistically the safest place in the car, as you can never take a direct hit there.
  • If you have only one child, it is safer to place the car seat in the center as long as the car seat can be properly secured in this position. Please note that the center rear seat of most vehicles does not use the LATCH system.

When should a forward-facing child switch to using a booster seat?

  • A child should be both at least 3-4 years old and at least 40 pounds before starting to use a booster seat.
  • If your over 40-pound child is not mature enough to sit still while using a booster seat (i.e. he leans over to fight with a sibling, picks up dropped toys, hangs out the window, etc.,), then he his not ready for a booster seat. In this case you should look for a safety seat that has a 5-point harness and can accommodate a child weighing more than 40 pounds.

Remember to keep safety first and foremost in your mind this summer and buckle up your family! Ask Patty always says, "When you're driving with your loved one remember you are carrying precious cargo!"

Check out ever-controversial mom, Britney Spears, and her car seat dilemma!


©2007 AskPatty.com, Inc.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Child Seat Choices for Your Ride - Autotrader