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National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.

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The Car Seat Safety Saga - What's a Parent To Do?
by Alison Rhodes

This past week the Chicago Tribune revealed that in a series of crash tests conducted by federal researchers 31 name-brand infant car seats either flew off their bases or exceeded injury limits. In one of the videos the infant car seat is seen flying off its base, smashing the baby face-first and upside down into the back of the driver's seat. The test results were never publicized and even some of the infant car seat makers were unaware of their existence.

Once again, parents are left scared and confused trying to determine which product is safest for their baby. We shouldn't have to be an investigative reporter to understand whether the car seat our baby is riding in will protect them in a crash. And, while the car seat manufacturers are required to test all of their seats, parents have no way of knowing if that particular seat fits best in their car. In these crash tests, two of the most expensive car seats had some of the poorest results and some small cars protected car seats better than larger ones.

Based on these results, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered a "complete top to bottom review of child safety-seat regulations" and has directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make these results more available for consumers.

It's also important to keep in mind that a great majority of car seats are installed improperly. In fact, according to research by the NHTSA, over 80% of car seats are installed and used improperly. So, while the government looks to review the existing child-seat safety regulations, it's up to us to make sure that we're installing and using our car seats properly.

  • Infants should always be placed in a rear-facing car seat. They must stay this way until they are 20 pounds and 1 year of age

  • The belt on the car seat should be fastened at chest level and you should be able to place no more than one finger between the strap and the baby's shoulder

  • Never put an infant in the front of a car that has a passenger side air bag!!

  • Check the weight restrictions in infant carriers! Some have a maximum weight limit of 15 pounds which many infants outgrow prior to turning 1 year

  • A car seat should be thrown out when it is older than five years. At this point the leather and cloth can begin wearing down, thereby compromising the integrity of the car seat.

Booster seats are as important as car seats! A child should remain in a booster seat, rather than using an adult seat belt, until he or she is 57 inches tall and weighs between 80 and 100 pounds. Many parents are too quick to move their child out of this seat. Every state has different requirements so check on your state's website.

It's also a good idea to have your car seat checked at a car seat safety clinic (you can find one at The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

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