Last Tuesday, September 19, the MMDA had recorded a whopping 200 car accidents in Metro Manila. If that isn't enough to convince you to keep your child safer in the car, then we hope the following news will: The House Committee on Transportation recently approved the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017. We are hopeful it will get passed because it's high time we use child safety seats in moving vehicles.
There are many car seat types, brands, and models in the market today. How do you even being to choose what's best for your child?
According to Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician and certified car seat technician, there isn't a car seat that can be considered as best or the safest. "The best seat is the one that fits your child's size, is correctly installed, fits well in your vehicle, and is used properly every time you drive," he said in a video made for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Here are the main things you need to consider:
1. Your child's age, weight, and height Your child's age is only a gauge; strictly follow the weight and height recommendations of the car seat manufacturer. Infants should be in rear-facing car seats, toddlers in forward-facing car seats, and older kids in booster seats.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a car seat finder tool where you enter your child's birthday, height, and weight. It can help narrow down your options.
2. Your car's space The safest seat for a child in a car is the back seat until they're over 12 years old. Take the measurments of your car's back seat before you go shopping. Bring the same tape measure or measuring tool you used on the car to the store so you can measure the base of the car seats you're eyeing to buy.
The AAP says that the car's middle back seat is the safest spot especially when using the vehicle's seat belt. Not all car seats allow installation in the middle back seat, so make sure you follow the manufacturer's installation guidelines.
3. Installation requirements A car seat will not be able to keep your child safe if it's not installed correctly. While in the store, read the instructions (hopefully with diagrams!) for installing the car seat and make sure you understand it. You can also search for online car seat installation videos from the manufacturer.
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All vehicles made after 2002 have the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system, and many parents find it easier to install car seats with LATCH. Another name for the LATCH is Isofix. (For a step-by-step instruction, click how to install car seats using Isofix.)
4. The belt restraints, harness, and lock Car seats with two-piece retainer clips are more difficult for a child to unfasten on his own. U.S. paramedic Krystal Kleidon suggests a 5-point harness is the safer option over a booster and seatbelt as some studies show. Choose what best fits your car and your child.
To check if the car seat straps can be adjusted to your kid's size and fit him snugly, buckle up your little one in the car seat at the store. To check the tightness of the straps, Kleidon recommends holding the car seat upside down with your child strapped in. It sounds scary, but it makes sense (just make sure you've got another person with you to catch your baby, you know, just in case).
5. Durability of materials You need to be wary of secondhand or used car seats. Heat exposure and regular wear and tear may compromise the seat's durability. Topgear.com.ph editor Niki Tamayo stresses that brands with cheap plastic will not last long.
The AAP had put together a list of car seats that meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (see the list here). The NHTSA has also made a car seat "Ease of Use Ratings" for parents (download the list from here).
6. Ease of maintenance Is it easy to clean? It may not affect the safety measure of the car seat, but it also matters since your kiddo would probably eat and drink in the car on a long trip. Seats made with a smooth fabric can be wiped clean more quickly. You may also opt for one with a washable covering.
7. The price Car seats don't come cheap, and you'd have to buy a new one every time your child outgrows his current car seat. Dr. Hoffman suggests buying one that has a little more room for your baby's growth. Choosing convertible car seats may be best because it grows with your child, but it costs more up front.