Car seats for children were initially designed in the late 1890’s and then again in the 1930’s to be a device that simply held children in place while the automobile was in motion, it was not meant to provide any type of collision protection for the child. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when Swedish designers decided to take another look at car seat design and came up with a rear facing seat to slow down the acceleration of the body in a crash.
When these seats became available for sale in the 1960’s consumers did not respond to this new idea, the few that did purchase these were only the most safety conscious of parents, many people did not know enough about why you would need a safety seat and figured this was a useless expense. In order to encourage sales of car seats it was decided by car seat advocates and manufacturers that education would be their key to success.
In the 1970’s members of insurance companies, doctors, consumers, and seat manufacturers set out to educate the public about the need for children to be protected in a child safety seat. After convincing government officials that these seats were a necessity for children, states across the US began to pass laws requiring the use of car seats with, Tennessee being the first in 1978, and by 1985 all states had passed this into law.
Today there are car seats to accommodate all children from birth up to 120 pounds to keep them safe.
- Infant Car Seat: The first stage is an infant car seat which is rear facing and typically seats infants from birth up to about 30 pounds. The benefit of an infant car seat is that it is portable and removes easily from the car without waking or moving the child and can be attached to a stroller to create a travel system.
- Convertible/ Toddler Car Seat: The second stage is to purchase a convertible car seat which accommodates children when they outgrow their infant car seats, a convertible car seat will keep your child rear facing until they are age 2 and 25 pounds, which is typically the recommended age to keep your child rear facing for the most safety benefit. Then once the child has reached the age and weight appropriate the convertible car seat then can be turned around to be forward facing up to about 65-70 pounds, which depends on the seats weight capacity, and by using a high capacity convertible seat it will allow your child to stay in a 5 point harness through the toddler years.
- Booster Car Seat: The third stage is a child booster seat which typically is used until about the age of 8-12 and 4’9” tall. The choices of boosters are high back or backless and utilizes your cars lap and shoulder belt to secure the child. It is important to note that although crash testing is mandatory on booster car seats, the US only requires front crash testing to be done and not side impact testing. Studies have shown that the more protection a child has the better the outcome in a crash, so we do recommend using a high back booster.
- Alternate Option: For parents looking to buy only one seat there is a newer option on the market for infants that are 5 pounds and above to purchase a combination Harness to Booster seat initially and skip the separate infant car sear and convertible seat purchases altogether. A combination Harness to Booster seat is a seat that starts out as a rear facing seat to about 40 pounds or 2 years of age, then at age 2 and at least 25 pounds typically can be turned to forward facing using the five point harness up to about 65-85 pounds, the combination seat then turns into a forward facing booster which typically accommodates children up to 100-120 pounds.
Buying a car seat is an important decision that will require some research on your part to find the seat that will accommodate your child the best and most safely. Some features to look for:
- Side Impact Protection
- Weight capacities (low to high), height capacities, and any adjustment features that allow the seat to grow with your child comfortably
- Type of installation, LATCH or lap and shoulder belt. Most have both options.
- Ease of installation, some seats have indicators to help you know (it is always a good idea to have your seat inspected by a certified child passenger safety technician or by going to inspection station – to locate one go to www.seatcheck.org)
- That the seat will fit in your vehicle correctly and safely
- Fun extras such as fabric colors, accessories, cup holders, mesh lining for comfort, etc.
Some brands we recommend:
- Peg Perego
Please note that the above information is only an overview of what car seats are available and what they typically do and the ages and heights the seats are typically used for. We believe that buying a car seat is a very important purchase that will require some research and comparing on your part as well. It’s important to make sure that the seat will fit your child’s height and weight, that the seat has been installed correctly, and that the seat has passed all testing required by law. It is also important to verify the child safety seat laws in your specific state as these can differ by state.
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