Baby Car Seat Safety for New Parents

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
For new moms and dads, finding the best baby car seat might sound as easy as going to any department store and buying the first thing that looks good. However, not all baby car seats are created equal. There are many different sizes; such as infant, toddler, convertible, or booster seats available. While all car seats are designed to be placed in the backseat of the automobile, some car seats are designed to be rear-facing (with the baby facing the back window), whilst others are designed to be forward-facing (with the baby facing forward). Cheap car seats rarely have the same safety ratings or standards as more expensive car seats, even if they seem more popular and readily-available.
So, how do you know which type of car seat you need, and what is the best choice for your baby? Should you buy a car seat the child can grow into, or get an infant seat that will need to be replaced once the child outgrows it?

These are valid questions. Not only do you have to determine the right car seat for your baby, but for the type of automobile you drive.

The good news is that all car seats available in the U.S. must meet the government’s high crash and fire safety standards, meaning that your seat will be safe enough, no matter what. If you purchase a secondhand car seat, this may not be the case, so try to avoid buying any car seat at garage sales or taking hand-me-downs from other parents that are more than a few years old. The safety standards change every year, and therefore what may have passed the criteria a few years ago could now be outdated.

Now, the bad news is that even though your car seat is safe by federal standards, if it is not properly installed, then the safety of your child might still be an issue. If you do not know how to properly install the car seat, there are many different ways you can learn. Within your own community, most fire stations or police stations offer a free workshop to teach parents how to put the car seat in properly and also how to make sure the infant is buckled in correctly. You could also watch videos online that teach parents how to properly install an infant seat.
One mistake many new parents make is not buckling the infant properly. It does require a lot of effort and the seatbelts can be frustrating to slip through the back of the seat, fasten and then additionally fastening the baby so that your baby can ride comfortably and safely. However, not doing your due diligence can be very dangerous, because even if you get into a minor fender-bender, if the baby is loose in the seat or not buckled in well, the baby can become a projectile that flies through the car or even smashing into the windshield. Or if you have the baby buckled in well but not the seat, then the entire seat – with the baby in it – will be flying through the air.
Many needless injuries are caused by poor car seat installation, so that is why you must make every effort as a parent to ensure the safety and protection of your child. It is inevitable that we must travel with our children, so over a period of time, some parents just become lackadaisical about the seat belt and car seat in their automobiles. Until your child is big enough to ride without a booster seat, then you will need to do this. That is usually around age six or seven, depending on the height and weight of your child.

If you need a wake-up call as to the importance of car seat safety for your baby, consider these CDC Statistics:

  • In the United States during 2011, more than 650 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 148,000 were injured.
  • One CDC study found that, in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.
  • Of the children who died in a crash in 2011, 33% were not buckled up.

Guidelines for Car Seats
Child Passenger Safety: Get the Facts

When it comes to your baby, it is best not to take any chances. Protecting your little one from harm is your responsibility, so make sure to choose the right baby seat when you bring your newborn home from the hospital!


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