In any mode of transport, passenger safety is always the top priority. In the case of personal vehicles, that means ensuring that safety is in our hands; more so when there are children involved. For adults on bikes or in cars, helmets and seatbelts are safety measures that can really be the difference between life and death in certain situations. For kids, toddler car seats protect our loved ones from harm in an unfortunate accident or during sudden swerves and stops. One of the primary jobs you have as a parent is to make sure your child is safe when traveling in a vehicle. Proper and safe use of car seats ensures the safety of children.
Studies show that toddler car seats reduce the risk of injury in kids by 70-80% and of death, 28%, in comparison to children wearing only a seatbelt. Car seats support the children's body, spread crash force over a wider area and prevent injury to vital organs like the head, neck and spine in the event of any untoward incident.
The necessity of a car seat cannot be stressed enough. There are many brands and types of toddler car seats available in the market, and those opting to purchase one may face confusion. Knowing about the car seats available, their specifications, features and installation tips will serve as a guide to buying a car seat that is perfect for your children and their needs.
The Basics of Toddler Car Seat & Safety
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There are various governing bodies that have laid down certain rules and regulations that car manufacturers, toddler car seat manufacturers and of course, drivers have to adhere to. This is done with a view to making roads safer and minimizing damage---if any---to life and property in case of a mishap.
A toddler car seat is a small seat or chair specially designed to fit infant sizes and keep kids safe, without making them feel uncomfortable. It functions like a seat belt does for adults.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal agency in the U.S. that regulates the safety of motor vehicles and related equipment. Its rule is that children below the age of 12 or until they attain a height of up to 4 feet 9 inches must always travel in a toddler car seat.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are U.S. federal regulations that specify the standards for design, construction, performance and durability of vehicles along with vehicle-related safety systems. Toddler car seats have to be manufactured according to the FMVSS for child restraint systems. Hence, any toddler car seat that you buy must have the necessary safety certification.
Why A Car Seat Is Necessary
Babies and kids have a soft bone structure that cannot withstand the pressure of a crash. They are also unable to hold their neck properly. In such cases, if improper pressure is put on their spine or vital organs (something that can happen during sudden braking, the turning of the car or in an accident), there is a high risk of serious injury. Toddler car seats restrict the child's movement, absorb the crash force and distribute it, keeping the child safe from harm.
What Happens In The Absence Of A Car Seat
If you try putting a car seat belt over a baby or a toddler who is 3 years old or 7 years old, you will notice that it obviously does not provide any safety as it is not of the right size. A child can crawl or slip out from under the seat belt, which can put him/her in danger. Also, an ill-fitting car seat belt can hurt children or rub against their skin and limbs in the wrong place. In case of an accident, this seat belt itself can cause injury to them. In the absence of a toddler car seat, kids might suddenly be propelled forward or sideways during an accident. This can result in damage to their head, neck, spine, limbs and other vital organs.
Things to Consider Before Your Purchase
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It is clear that all parents need to install toddler car seats in their vehicles to ensure safety of their little ones. Most hospitals do not even let you take your newborn home from the hospital unless your vehicle has a toddler car seat installed in it. But with so many options to choose from and with so many safety regulations to follow, it is necessary to think patiently about certain aspects of the toddler car seat before you actually purchase and install it.
Do you need a car seat for a baby or a child who is about 3 feet tall? Do you wish to move the car seat from one vehicle to another very often? What kind of installation method are you looking for? All these will determine which toddler car seat is the best buy for you. Rest assured that no matter which brand you buy or what it costs, they will all have the safety standards in place.
Always study the product specifications well. A toddler car seat will be used for a few years minimum so you must ensure that it meets all your expectations. Check the size and comfort level, according to your child’s height and weight. Every car seat will have the height and weight restrictions, manufacturing details, expiration date, registration details and installation procedure mentioned with it. These are very important and must not be overlooked at any cost.
It is recommended that you buy a toddler car seat which already has all of the safety and comfort features built in. If any feature---such as padding for harness straps---must be purchased separately and added to the car seat, not having this could prove unsafe for the child.
Finding the right toddler car seat for your kid is not enough. You need to install the seat correctly in your vehicle. The NHTSA conducted a nationwide study in 2011 which showed that 46% of all car seats are incorrectly installed and that many people do not even read the installation manual and procedure well. You must also verify that your vehicle has the required equipment to secure the car seat properly. This includes the car seatbelts or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Child Restraint Systems) anchors and tether straps found in between seat cushions and above them.
The most important thing to do after buying and installing a toddler car seat is to register it. Once registered, you will get information from the company in case there is any manufacturing defect or a recall of the product.
Different Types of Car Seats
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Different types of car seats are available and used for infants of different ages and heights. You can opt for one and then change it as your child outgrows the earlier car seat, or you can also check out some convertible options. Whichever type you choose, never purchase or borrow an old or used car seat because it is less expensive. That car seat may have been in an accident or may be damaged, and you won’t know. You may put your kid’s life at risk.
Studies claim that a rear-facing car seat is the safest for a child. This car seat is installed behind the front seat, facing the rear windshield. In case of an accident, the seat absorbs most of the crash force, and the child does not feel any harsh jerks or jolting movements. Most federal vehicle safety-regulating agencies insist that only rear-facing car seats be used for children until they grow out of them and need to switch to forward-facing car seats.
Forward-facing car seats refer to those in which the child faces forward just like all the other passengers in the vehicle. This car seat is generally suitable for kids older than 2 years of age. The 5-point harness helps keep infants in place and upright. Do not put your child in heavy, puffy winter clothing if you want the harness to fit snugly. Heavy coats and jackets will not allow the harness to be as tight as it should be.
If your child has outgrown both the rear-facing and forward-facing car seats, you can switch to a booster seat. Booster seats are right for kids who are more than the specified height and weight restrictions of car seats but not tall enough for the car seat belt alone. Booster seats use the car’s built-in lap and shoulder belts.
Convertible Car Seats
These toddler car seats are a good investment because they can be installed rear-facing as well as forward-facing, which means one car seat can be used for many years even as the child grows.
Child seat installation experts can help you correctly install your child’s car seat, leaving no room for error. Vigilance about vehicle safety and proper use of toddler car seats can ensure your children’s safety and drastically bring down injury and death rates among kids.