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How Safe is Your Baby’s Car Seat?

baby car seat safetyIf you are expecting your first child, you have begun to experience the wonderful world of baby stuff. Even if this is your second, third, or eighteenth child, you’ve learned that you need to keep up on the latest trends, recalls, and safety wisdom. While every piece of gear you buy is important–with the possible exception of those videos that show toys while classical music drones in the background–the one that both parents and the government require the most from in terms of safety is the car seat.

Obsession

You’ve got the latest edition of Baby Bargains on your iPad, you’ve narrowed down which houses for sale are in the best school district and don’t have any exposed wiring or trap doors that lead to crocodile pits, your auto insurance is all up-to-date, and you’ve sold the ’72 Chevy Nova for a newer model with LATCH. Congratulations–you are doing an excellent job of building the illusion that you are ready for life as a parent! Your next assignment is to spend a minimum of forty solid hours researching the best infant car seat. Whilst poring through the myriad books, magazines, websites, and parents’ brains, keep the following questions at the front of your mind:

  • Does it exceed government standards? Try not to settle for just meeting them. That’s not how modern parents roll.
  • Is it easy to use? If it’s hard to get junior in and/or out, your frayed nerve ends may force a brain shutdown, which you don’t need when there’s a diaper that needs changing and a mouth that needs feeding.
  • Is it versatile? You really shouldn’t care if the seat matches the upholstery, but at the prices seats go for these days, you might want to consider a seat that will keep your progeny safe for a few years down the road.
  • Holy #*%@–$300 for a *$&# car seat? “Costlier” is not a synonym for “safer.” While three large will get you a seat that is safe, feature-rich, and stylish, one of the best-reviewed car seats of 2012 will only set you back $170. If you are not sure what features you need, this is one time when you can trust in online user reviews and friends’ recommendations.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

A car seat could have an impact-activated forcefield, gyroscopic stabilizers, and inertial dampers, but if it is not used properly, that kid ain’t gonna be safe. Before you even think of installing that thang, read through the included manual–heck, read it in every language, just to be thorough. Check the manufacturer’s website; many feature videos that walk you through the steps. Many local police departments offer child seat inspections; call for a schedule.

Before you leave the house, though, do your best to install the seat to manufacturer’s specifications. This probably requires that you not put the child in the seat and then leave them on the car’s roof, trunk, or hood–it’s a safe bet that the police would not approve of such usage.

Al Natanagara is a writer, journalist, and blogger whose career includes stints with ZDNet, CNet, CBS, LexisNexis, and Law Enforcement. (Guest Blogger for Momsminivan.com)

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