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A child car seat is designed to keep your little ones secure when riding in a vehicle, but The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3 out of 4 car seats are not used properly. If that's the case, then how do you know if you're using them properly?

It seems like a pretty simple concept, but there are several factors to consider when buying and installing your child's car seat. Here are a few of the most common questions parents have:

1. How do I know what type of seat to use?Is My Child's Car Seat Safe?

Choosing the right seat for your child is based on your child's height and weight, plus the type of vehicle that you own. There are guidelines for each of the different types of seats such as front-facing and rear-facing child seats.

The NHTSA recommends:

Birth – 12 months - Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 – 3 years - Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It's the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4 – 7 years - Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

For more information see Car Seat Recommendations for Children.

2. How do I know if my child's car seat installed correctly?

Having a car seat that fits properly in your vehicle is critical to keeping your child safe should an accident occur. There are thousands of makes of models of both cars and seats, so it's not realistic that every seat would fit properly in every vehicle. It is highly recommended that you test your new seat to make sure that it's a good fit for all your vehicles and make sure that you can return the seat if it doesn't. The NHTSA offers free seat inspection stations were you can have it examined by a professionally trained inspector. To find one near you, visit their Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator.

3. How do I find out if my car seat has been recalled?

Just like any other manufactured product, children's car seats can have defects or design flaws that make them potentially unsafe. The best place to check if your car seat has been recalled is the NHTSA Recall List. If you find that your seat has been recalled, visit the manufacturer's website for information or call the manufacture directly. If you can't find their contact information online, it should be in your owner's manual.

4. What do I need to know when buying or using a used seat?

- Make sure that the seat has not been recalled. Call the manufacturer or contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236. Or check their Recall List.

- Check for a label with the date of manufacture and model number. You'll need this information to check if the seat is safe or if it's been recalled.

- Don't use seats that have cracks, not even small ones.

- Look for an expiration date. Check for a "made by" date on the label and call the manufacturer to see if the seat is still safe to use.

- Make sure that the seat still has all of its parts. It's possible that you may be able to get replacement parts from the manufacturer, but always check before you buy.

- Only buy seats that come with the instructions. If you want to know how to install the seat properly you're going to need the instructions.

- If you have any concerns about the safety of the seat contact the manufacturer to ask questions.

If you take your time and choose the right car seat for your child, you'll give yourself the peace of mind that your child will be comfortable and more importantly safe when riding in your car.

By Matt Reynolds - Google+
Posted 7:13 PM

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