A Car Seat Safety Primer

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Car seat safety is always evolving. Remember the car seats (or lack thereof) you rode in as a child? Scary, huh? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is always devising up new requirements and standards for car seats. This is a good thing, but I’ll admit it can be hard keeping up with the latest standards. Here is a primer on the current car seat standards for 2009.

All infants must ride rear-facing in an infant car seat or convertible car seat. If using an infant car seat, use it until your baby outgrows the height and weight requirements, which is usually around 22 pounds and when your baby’s head is an inch from the top of the seat.

Infants not using an infant car seat and all toddlers must use a convertible car seat. The AAP recently released new guidelines recommending that all babies ride rear-facing until they’ve outgrown the car seat manufacturer’s rear-facing weight and height limits or are at least 2 years old. Convertible car seats top off anywhere from 22 to 32 pounds. The AAP moved their recommended forward-facing age from 1 to 2 based on research that toddlers are 5 times safer in rear-facing car seats because their spines are better protected.

After your child has reached the height and weight limits for a forward-facing car seat, he or she needs to be placed in a belt-positioning booster seat. Most convertible car seats transition into booster seats—just make sure you have it properly positioned. The forward-facing booster seat should be used until your child can properly wear a seat belt, which usually occurs when you child reaches 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years old.

No matter what stage car seat your child is using, it’s a wonderful idea to have a certified passenger safety technician check to make sure the seat is properly installed.

Creative Commons License photo credit: eyeliam

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About Sarah Valek

Sarah Valek is a freelance writer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She has written numerous articles on alternative parenting and the challenges of raising a vegan child in a meat-eating world. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and art from Ithaca College. She spends her days drinking soy lattes and taking her son bird-watching.