Choose the Best Car Seat for Your Youngest Passengers

Safety is your No. 1 concern when driving with small children. The proper car seat is crucial. Here’s how to choose one that protects your most precious cargo:

• Check the safety label. Make sure it meets or exceeds federal safety requirements for carrying children.

• Be cautious about used seats. A previously owned seat that’s more than six years old may not be safe. Look for missing parts, cracks, or other signs of wear and tear. Call the manufacturer to ask about durability and recalls.

• Get the seat that fits your child. Infant seats are designed for children from birth to about 20 to 35 pounds. Some can be converted to hold a child up to about 40 pounds. Otherwise, you’ll need a front-facing safety seat capable of holding children until they reach 40 pounds, and after that a booster seat can be used until they hit about 80 pounds. Keep careful track of how big your children grow.

• Learn the safety belt test. When your child is about 13 years old, he or she may be ready to ride with just a seat belt. Do the child’s knees bend at the edge of a regular car seat? Does the belt ride low on his or her hips? Does the shoulder belt lie on the child’s collar or shoulder? Does the child sit comfortably with seat belt and shoulder strap correctly fastened? If any of the answers to these questions are no, keep the child in a safety seat until he or she has grown sufficiently.

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