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How do I Choose the Safest Car Seat?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Choosing the safest car seat can involve a number of different factors, though the most important thing to consider is the weight and size of your child. There are three main types of car seats, each of which is safest for a different group of children. Infant and baby car seats are the safest when your child weighs under 20 lbs (about nine kilograms), and they are designed to orient the child backward in a seat. If your child outgrows these infant seats before turning one year old, then the safest car seat to choose at that point may be a convertible unit. For children that exceed the maximum weight of these car seats, the safest choice is a booster seat.

Many areas require that children under a particular age and weight be secured in an appropriate car seat. The regulations differ, though it is generally recommended that babies are transported in rear facing car seats until they exceed the weight limits for those devices, and that older children remain in booster seats until the those weight limits are exceeded as well. Most areas have stringent regulations on car seat safety, so the particular brand typically does not make much difference if the unit is new and of the correct design.

It is typically recommended that infants and young babies ride in a rear facing seat. Most new infant seats allow for this configuration and have a common weight limit of about 20 lbs (nine kilograms). It is technically acceptable to move a child into a forward facing seat when that weight is exceeded, though many experts say that the safest car seat is still one that is rear facing.

If your baby exceeds the weight limit of your infant seat before turning one, it is typically a good idea to get a convertible car seat. These seats are often able to hold up to 40 lbs (18 kg) in a rear facing configuration, which allows you to keep your child in this safer position for a longer time. Many of these seats will allow you to turn them into a front facing position once your baby exceeds this weight limit, and continue to use it until the child exceeds 70 lbs (31kg).

After your child exceeds the weight limit of a front facing car seat, an appropriate booster seat may be the safest option. Some people choose to move their child into a booster seat at a weight of 40 lbs (18 kg) and age of three years, though at that point the safest car seat is still a fixed or convertible front facing unit. Even if the law provides a minimum age and weight to move to the next type of unit, the safest car seat is typically still a rear or front facing unit if the child fits in it.

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Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Jul 20, 2014

@Animandel - One of the main reasons you should put car seats in the rear seats is because kids might be injured if the front air bags came out during an accident. If you ride your baby in the front, like in a pickup then you need to disconnect the airbag where the child is seated. Otherwise, the airbag could come out and injure the child.

To answer your question, it is legal to ride kids in the front of the pickups, but the best thing is for them to be in cars and trucks with back seats, so they will be safer.

By Animandel — On Jul 19, 2014

I know car seats are supposed to be put in the back seat for safety reasons, but I still see people driving around with the child seats in pick-up trucks that don't have any rear seats. I know this isn't safe, but is it legal?

By Sporkasia — On Jul 18, 2014

I remember when my sister had her first child way back when. I would drive my little niece around in my car, and she would be strapped into the front seat. She had one of the rear facing seats, but I didn't know at the time that she would have been safer in the back seat.

Also, I can't say for certain that I had the seat strapped in the proper way. I think many people still don't properly install the seats they buy, so regardless of how safe a car seat is you need to make sure you connect it the right way so that it will do the job it is designed to do

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