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How to Keep Your Child Safe in a Car

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Choosing the Right Car Seat continued...

The CDC says all children younger than age 13 should ride in the back seat. That holds true if they're in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. The reason: air bags can hurt or even kill young children riding in the front.

Experts recommend keeping babies under 2 in a rear-facing seat until they outgrow the car seat manufacturer's height and weight limit. A rear-facing car seat will protect your baby's delicate neck during a crash. A seat's weight limits correspond to the seat itself. Some seats can go up to 60+ pounds.

Every state has different laws on children's car seats. Some states will fine you $100 or more for failing to secure your child in the correct child seat.

Evaluating Car Seat Quality

You know which type of car seat you need, but what about the brand and model? Here are a few features to look for:

Safety label. Make sure the seat has a label stating that it meets or exceeds Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

Five-point harness. It will protect your baby better than a three-point harness or seatbelt.

Ratings. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) five-star ease of use ratings system. A seat that's earned four or five stars will have clear instructions and be easy to use.

New car seat. It's always better to buy a car seat new. If you do have to buy a used seat, search on the NHTSA's web site to make sure it hasn't been recalled. Also, call the manufacturer to check that the seat is still safe. DON'T use any used seat that:

  • is obviously worn
  • has loose or torn parts
  • has been in an accident

Car Seat Installation Tips

Now that you've got your car seat, it's time to install the seat in your car. It's important that the car seat is secured properly.

Even if the safety seat looks secure, it may not be. Three out of four parents are driving around with improperly installed child seats. And that's dangerous for their children.

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