As a parent, your children are your first priority. You want to ensure they're happy, healthy, stimulated and growing on track. This is exactly why it comes as a surprise to so many parents that they're doing something wrong. Car seat safety is something we can't stress enough. A car seat not only keeps your little one safe during everyday trips, but if you use a car seat effectively, it provides protection during collisions. Here are our best tips to ensure your car seat does offer that protection.

Choosing a Car Seat

Experts agree that a rear-facing car seat is the best option for any child who requires a car seat. However, it's also the only option for your infant or newborn up to one year of age. Although you won't be able to see your little one's face in your rear-view mirror, this type of car seat offers the greatest protection thanks to how it moves with your child during an accident. This movement prevents spinal cord damage.

You'll also find front-facing seats only for use when your child is older. Convertible car seats start out as rear-facing seats but can becoming front-facing seats as your child grows. Several manufacturers make all-in-one seats, which can be face the rear or front and become a booster seat for larger children. Finally, a combination front-facing seat is also able to serve as a booster seat later in your child's life.

All car seats have weight and height ratings, so if your child falls on the extreme end of the growth charts, you should carefully choose a car seat based on those metrics rather than age.

Before You Install a Car Seat

A Long Island pre-owned car dealers Burns Motor Company advises to have your child's car seat checked by a technician certified by the National CPS Certification Program. Even a brand-new car seat miss not pass. However, car seats that have been in prior collisions, even small ones, should no longer before used. Even if you can't see any damage, your car seat should be properly disposed of. Never sell or give away a car seat that's been in an auto accident, and don't accept a used car seat if you can't verify its safety.

Car Seat Installation

All car seats secure to your vehicle with the seat belt. However, some belts might secure through a detachable base, and a convertible car seat has multiple slots depending upon which direction the seat faces. Of course, the seat belt should click into place and be snug before you place your child into the car seat.

Remember, not all seats work with all vehicles. An improper fit is unsafe, and you should never install a car seat in the front seat of your car.

Securing Your Child

The harness should be snug but comfortable, resting near your child's armpits and not the stomach. All latches should click into place. Giving the harness a tug before you close the door can easily verify this.

Car seats are designed to be snug, which means you shouldn't place your child in puffy coats before putting them in the car seat. This forces you to loosen the harness on the car seat and leads to less protection in the event of an accident when the jacket compresses.

Instead, you can place the jacket on your child backwards when transporting between your home and vehicle. Remove the jacket before strapping your child into the car seat and tuck it around the harness. Alternatively, wrap your child in a blanket while carrying her and drape the blanket around the car seat. Some companies even make blankets that secure to your child's car seat for this exact purpose.

Other Safety Considerations

A car seat should never be used as a crib replacement. Furthermore, there is a period of time in which your child is too large for a car seat but still requires a booster seat. For this reason, a convertible car seat is convenient. Children should remain in the back seat until 12 years of age, whether they're in a car seat, booster seat or sitting on their own.

Car seats can save your child's life, but only when you choose the right car seat and follow every instruction in the manual.

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