Types of Child Restraints
- Safety Seats for Babies – The safest place in a car for an infant is in a safety seat facing the rear of the vehicle and placed in the middle of the back seat. This helps to support the baby’s head and back. If you place your baby in the safety seat, and his or her head flops forward, place a rolled towel under the front edge of the child safety seat and rolled towels or a blanket on both sides of the baby’s head and shoulders for support. There are two types of safety seats made for babies:
- Infant-only seats – These safety seats fit babies only under 17 to 22 pounds. These seats always face the rear of the car.
- Convertible seats – These safety seats fit children from birth until they reach about 40 pounds. Convertible seats are used facing the back of the car for the first year and then can be turned to face the front when the baby is one year and weighs at least 20 pounds.
- Booster seats – When a child has outgrown a convertible safety seat and weighs more than 40 pounds, but is still too small to make proper use of a vehicle safety belt, the child should be placed in a booster seat. There are two types of booster seats. A belt-positioning booster seat uses a combination lap/shoulder belt, if that type of restraint system is available in the car. The belt-positioning booster seat is preferable to a booster seat with a small shield, which can be used when only a lap belt is available.
- Safety belts – When a child is old enough and large enough to fit into an adult safety belt, he or she can be moved out of a booster seat. To fit a child properly, the lap belt should fit snugly and properly across the child’s upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross over the child’s shoulder and across the chest. The child should sit upright against the seat back and keep the lap belt below the hip bones, touching the upper thighs. This position is important. In the event of a crash, a child could suffer serious or fatal internal injuries if he or she slouches and the lap belt goes over the stomach.
Child Restraint Safety
In order to protect your child, the safety seat must be secure. To secure the seat, you must read and follow the instructions carefully. You should also read the label on the safety belt of your car and any special instructions contained in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. When properly secured, the safety seat’s harness will fit snugly around the baby, and you will be able to slide a finger under the straps at the baby’s chest. The chest clips should be placed at the baby’s armpits. If you want to cover the baby, secure the infant in the seat first and then place a blanket over the baby.
Infants in rear-facing child safety seats should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag. The back of a rear-facing child safety seat sits very close to the dashboard. In a crash, an air bag inflates very quickly and could hit anything close to the dashboard with such force that very serious injuries or even death could result. Because the back of a rear-facing child safety seat sits very close to the dashboard, it could be struck with fatal force.