Safest Forward-Facing Car Seats

By Karen Lovell
Regularly check your car seat for damage.
Regularly check your car seat for damage.

The safest forward-facing car seats are the seats that accommodate your child’s weight, age and height, and one which you have installed correctly. According to MedlinePlus, when used in the right way, a car seat can help a child from being injured by absorbing some of the impact force of an accident and keeping her from being thrown or ejected from the car. In order to keep your child as safe as possible, know how to install and use the correct seat for her.

The Car Seat

You have a choice of four kinds of forward-facing car seats from which to choose. A convertible seat converts from rear-facing for infants to forward-facing for toddlers. These can accommodate toddlers up to 40 pounds, and a harness holds your child safely in place. Toddler booster seats are for children who weigh 40 to 80 pounds and are useful until your child is at least 57 inches tall, the minimum height you can use a seat belt without a booster seat. Some models can support children weighing up to 100 pounds. Belt-positioning booster seats raise your child up to the correct level so they can use the car’s seat belt. The final type is the built-in car seat for toddlers weighing more than 20 pounds and uses the seat belt as a restraint. More often than not, these are by the windows and offer little in side-impact defense. According to Consumer Reports, the latest research says that the harness method is the safest way to keep your child in place, so, to keep your child as safe as possible, keep him in a seat with a harness.

Placement

Place your forward-facing car seat in the back seat of the car. The safest place for the seat is to be in the center of the back seat.

Installation

Read the instructions carefully and ensure you understand them. If not, call the manufacturer and ask them to go through them with you. If your car and your child's car seat were built after 2002, they should be compatible with the LATCH system, a "lower anchors and tethers for children" system. This enables you to attach the seat using the car’s anchors, rather than the seat belt.

When you put the child's seat onto your car's seat, make sure it is flat against the bottom and back of your car's seat. Place your knee on the child's car seat and push down to get all the air out of your car's cushion underneath.

If you are using the traditional way of installing a car seat, start by threading the seat belt through the correct slots and pull on it so there is no slack. Buckle the belt and pull on it to ensure it remains locked. Check to see if the seat moves, either forward or sideways. If it does, unlock the seat belt and repeat until the seat stays firmly in place. Safety Belt Safe U.S.A. recommends that the seat moves no more than an inch either forward or sideways.

Using the Car Seat

When you place your child in her car seat, adjust the straps so they provide a snug fit. They should lie flat on your child, not twisted. Once your child is in her seat, pull on the straps to make sure they lock securely. You can buy head, neck and body supports to keep your child secure if she is at the lower end of the weight range. Safety Belt Safe U.S.A. also recommends that the harness be tight enough so that it cannot be pinched between your fingers. If you want to keep your child warm, use a blanket or coat only on top of the harness.

About the Author

Karen Lovell started writing professionally in 2009. She specializes in diet, nutrition and exercise along with the information technology, hospitality and catering industries. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Lovell holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and English from Greenwich University.