Rob Herbstreith: How to properly fit car seatsPublished 7:22pm Thursday, April 21, 2011
Q: What car seats are best for children by weight and size? — Octavia from Niles
A: As a child passenger safety technician/instructor, I do not recommend any specific name brand of car seat. The seats you see at stores have all been tested and meet all requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 213. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration will then select random seats for further testing. These are the seats that make a recall list if they fail in any part of the testing.
As car seat technicians, we go through an intense four-day course to become the “expert” when it comes to assisting parents with the installation of the seats. With the different latch plates, retractors and styles of car seats, it can be overwhelming for some parents. Listed is a guide to determine what size of seat your child may need:
• Infant seat: From birth to 20 to 22 pounds. This seat is the carrier type seat that may or may not have a base. This seat is reclined to 30 to 45 degrees and must be rear facing. Best practice recommends the rear middle position for these seats. If this can’t be done, either outboard side is sufficient.
• Convertible seat: This seat may be used rear facing from birth (or 5 pounds, varying by model) to 20 to 35 pounds, varying by model. This seat should be reclined when in the rear facing position, at 30 to 45 degrees. Best practice now recommends leaving the child rear facing to the age of 2 years or until they outgrow the rear facing height and weight.
• Convertible seat: This seat may be turned forward facing and is usually used up to 40 pounds. Some newer models are now going up to 65 pounds, varying on the model. This forward-facing seat must be upright — no recline.
• Forward-facing only: This seat can only be used forward-facing, unlike the convertible seat. It must also be placed upright.
• Booster seats: Most booster seats range from 30 to 100 pounds, with newer models going to 120 pounds. This seat involves the newest car seat law, stating the child must be in a booster seat until 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches, whichever comes first. Best practice recommends leaving the child in the booster seat as long as possible. The purpose of these seats is to raise the child so the adult seat belts fit the child properly. The high-back boosters are for vehicle with no head restraints, while the backless boosters are to be used only when the vehicle has a head restraint for that position.
• Seat belts: When the child can sit in the vehicle seat and the seat lap belt fits across the hips and waist and the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder and sternum, while the feet are touching the floor, the child may now be big enough to sit there without any child seat being used.
Never place a rear facing seat in front of an airbag and best practice recommends all children under the age of 13 sit in the rear seats.
E-mail Trooper Rob Herbstreith at email@example.com.