A rear-facing seat is one in which the infant faces the back of the car. Always install a rear-facing seat in the backseat of your car. This is the safest position for an infant.
Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle with passenger airbags.
There are two types of rear-facing seats: infant-only rear-facing seats and convertible seats.
Infant-only rear-facing seats are for babies who are 22 to 30 pounds, depending on the specific car seat. You will need a new seat when your child gets bigger. Infant-only seats have handles that allow you to move the seat from the car to the house or other locations. Some have a base that you can leave installed in the car, so you can just click the car seat into place each time you use it.
Convertible seats are for bigger infants and toddlers less than 1 year old—about 30 to 35 pounds, depending on the specific seat. The seat can be used as a rear-facing seat for a younger child and switched to forward-facing seat on the child's first birthday if the child weighs at least 20 pounds. However, experts recommend keeping the child in a rear-facing position until he or she outgrows the weight or height allowed by the safety seat.
Installing a Child Safety Seat
It is important to use child car seats properly. Studies show that most people do not properly install car seats. The seat must fit snugly and be positioned at the proper angle. Many people install a car seat far too loosely, even though they think the seat is tight. The seat should be snug and not move more than one inch forward or sideways.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the installation and use of your specific car seat. Also, read your car owner's manual to determine the safest place to install a car seat in your car. If the instructions are unclear, call the company that made the car seat.
Contact your local police or fire station for help installing your specific seat. Many stations have free programs to show you how to do this. To find a certified child passenger safety technician in your area visit seatcheck.org
Child safety seats come with safety straps, called harnesses, which secure the child into position. Your safety seat may have a three-point or five-point harness system.
A three-point harness system has two straps at the shoulder and one between the legs.
A five-point system has two straps at the shoulder, two at the hips, and one between the legs.
The seat is secured into your vehicle using either the car's seat belts or the LATCH system.
LATCH stands for "lower anchors and tethers for children"—it is designed to make car seat installation easier. A child safety seat that comes with LATCH attaches to anchors in the back seat, where the cushions meet, and a strap called a tether, which connects the top of the safety seat to the car's frame. The car's seat belts are not used. All child safety seats and vehicles made after September 1, 2002 come with LATCH.
For more information on how to install child safety seats, see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site at nhtsa.dot.gov
. The NHTSA's site also provides a list of all child safety seats recalled since 1990.