How to Select the Right Child Safety Seat for Your Child

Every day, children are injured or killed in automobile accidents because the child seat they were riding in was improperly installed in the vehicle, or was not the appropriate seat for them.

When it comes to child safety seats, the best choice isn’t necessarily the most expensive one, but the one that’s height and weight appropriate.  Keep in mind that age guidelines are just that – guidelines based on averages.  To determine whether or not a particular child seat is appropriate for your child, use the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations.

Be sure that the child seat you’re considering meets or exceeds the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, “Child Restraint Systems.”

Although used child safety seats may save you a few dollars, they may also place your child at great risk.  You should never use a child seat that’s more than six years old, has been involved in an accident, or is missing or damaged parts.

When purchasing or accepting a used child seat as a gift, ask the seller or gift-giver for the manufacturer’s instruction manual.  If they don’t have it, you can probably find it online.

Never accept a used car seat with missing or illegible manufacturer’s labels. Labels should include the manufacturer’s name, the model number and the date the seat was manufactured. This information can be used to research prior safety recalls and to receive alerts on future recall actions.

Once you’ve selected a child seat, take time to thoroughly read the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re unsure about the proper installation and use, you can have it inspected at no charge at a federal government inspection station.  Go to to find an inspection station near you.

Many local hospitals, health, law enforcement and fire departments offer this service at no charge.  Be sure to ask for a certified inspector to ensure they have the proper training needed to assist you.

According to the CDC, infants up to two years of age should be placed in rear-facing car seats in the back seat.  Children ages two to five can be placed in forward-facing car seats. Booster seats are appropriate for children ages five to nine.

When possible, child seats should be positioned toward the middle of the rear seat, away from the doors.  Finally, child safety seats should never be positioned in front of an air bag.

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