Car-seat safety tips A child car seat should be high on your to-buy list
The safest place for a child in a car seat is in your vehicle's center-rear seat--never upfront near an air bag. A child should ride in a rear-facing car seat until reaching the maximum weight/height limits or other limits stated by the seat's manufacturer. (Typical weight limits for rear-facing use of convertible seats is 30 pounds.) Never switch the child's seat to a front-facing orientation for a child less than 1 year old and not over 22 pounds. For rear-facing use, recline the seat to achieve an optimum 45-degree angle.
Harness straps in a rear-facing car seat should be at or slightly below the infant's shoulders. For front-facing toddlers, harness straps should be at or slightly above the toddler's shoulders. If a harness is properly snug, you should not be able to insert more than one of your fingers behind it.
When possible, buy new. Try out the car seat in your car; return it to the seller if it's difficult to install or use.
Don't accept a hand-me-down with an unknown history or one that is more than six years old. If you must have a used seat, avoid recalled models by checking www.recalls.gov .
Return the registration card so you can be notified of a recall.
NHTSA recently issued new advice: Parents can be confident that a child car seat will continue to do its job after a minor crash. The agency defines a minor crash as one that causes no visible car-seat cracks or deformities; injures no one in the car; results in no damage to the door or doors nearest the car seat; and does not trigger the air bags.
After a minor crash, keep your child strapped in the seat as you drive away from the scene. Before the next trip, contact a trained car-seat inspector--go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov or www.seatcheck.org --but keep in mind that inspections aren't infallible.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any sponsor or advertiser of CTV.
Copyright © 2003-2007 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.