There are four different types of car seats:
When you're first starting out as a new parent, it can be a bit confusing to know what type of car seat to use. It can also be overwhelming comparing and contrasting these car seats to find out which one is safest.
In this article, I've done the hard work for you, and I've compared the different types of car seats to see if one is safer than the other. I've also listed a few of the most common car seat mistakes that parents make. Read on to learn what type of car seat is the safest and how to avoid common car seat mistakes.
Car Seat Safety Comparison: How Safe are the Different Types of Car Seats?
There’s no hard research or evidence to determine which type of car seat is the safest. However, despite the lack of evidence, some argue that one type of car seat is safer over another. Below, I’ll compare the different types of car seats that are commonly thought to be safer than the other so that we can see how safe each type of car seat is and if one can be considered the safest type.
Are infant car seats safer than convertible car seats?
Infant car seats are rear-facing only car seats, and they’re usually the first car seat that parents use. Although infant car seats are designed to be used from birth until your child exceeds its height/weight requirements, there are convertible car seats that have an extended maximum weight limit that’s suited for newborns and infants. However, you would have to refer to your car seat’s specific height/weight requirements to know if your car seat is one of those types.
The NHTSA highly recommends that you keep your child seated in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. Infant car seats typically have a maximum weight limit of between 30 to 35 pounds, so eventually, you’ll have to transition to a convertible car seat. As I mentioned before, most convertible car seats today are manufactured with an extended rear-facing weight range to adhere to the NHTSA safety guidelines.
For this reason, I’d say that convertible car seats are safer than infant car seats, because not only do most keep your child seated in the rear-facing position longer, but they can also be used from the moment you leave the hospital until it’s time to transition your child to a forward-facing car seat. However, I will add that because infant car seats are specifically designed for newborns and infants, they’re more likely to be equipped with extra comfort and safety features that a convertible car seat may be lacking.
Is a convertible car seat safer than an all-in-one seat?
It’s hard to say whether or not a convertible car seat is safer than an all-in-one, and vice-versa. Depending on what kind you get, an all-in-one car seat, similar to a convertible car seat, can be used from the moment you leave the hospital. In addition to that, an all-in-one car seat can be used as a forward-facing car seat and a high-back booster, meaning it can be used longer than a convertible car seat.
Because of this, most all-in-one car seats will be equipped with more enhanced safety and comfort features to better protect your child from infancy until they no longer need a car seat. For this reason, I guess you could say that all-in-one car seats are safer than convertible car seats. But, they both offer the same relative amount of safety when used properly.
Is a convertible car seat safer than a booster?
The answer to this question depends on what type of booster seat we’re comparing to convertible car seats. If we’re comparing them to a high-back booster, then I feel it’s safe to say that they’re both equally safe. High-back boosters, for the most part, are equipped with the same safety features that a forward-facing convertible car seat has. The main difference is that high-back booster uses a vehicle seatbelt to secure a child, while a convertible car seat uses a 5-point harness.
If we’re comparing a backless booster to a convertible car seat, I would have to argue that convertible car seats are safer. This is simply because convertible car seats offer side impact protection to lessen the impact force of a collision. Backless booster seats aren’t equipped with that safety feature because they’re solely designed to add to your child’s height so that they can safely ride in the car using a vehicle seatbelt.
What Common Car Seat Safety Mistakes Do Parents Make?
Below, I’ve listed the top three common mistakes, according to the Mayo Clinic, that parents make when installing and using a car seat.
1. Installing the car seat in the wrong spot
Car seats must ALWAYS be installed in the back seat unless you have no choice but to install it in the front seat. If you place your seat your child in the rear-facing position in the front seat and the airbag activates, it could send your child forward, resulting in head trauma or serious injury. Seating them in the forward-facing position in the front seat is just as hazardous as seating them in the rear-facing position because they can still be injured by the force of the airbag. If your child has to ride in the front seat, you must deactivate the airbags in the front before installing the car seat.
When installing your car seat in the backseat, it’s highly recommended that you install it in the middle seat away from the doors. Doing this minimizes the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
2. Buying a used car seat without doing enough research
When you buy a used car seat, you run the risk of getting a car seat that’s expired, broken, or different than advertised. If you’re going to buy a car seat that’s been used, it’s best to do so from people that you know and trust.
Otherwise, check for these things:
Also, be sure to ask the supplier if the car seat has been a car crash.
3. Installing the car seat and securing the child incorrectly
For installation instructions, you should refer to your car seat’s instruction manual. As a general rule of thumb, car seats should be installed and secured so that there’s less than one inch of movement. If you can easily wiggle your car seat around, you haven’t installed it correctly. To give you a push in the right direction, this guide outlines basic safety tips for properly installing your car seat. Also, refer to your manufacturer’s manual for instructions on how to correctly buckle in your child
This article compared different car seat types to determine which type is the safest. After comparing these car seats, I believe it’s safe to say that each type is safe for different reasons. Furthermore, I wouldn’t go as far as to name one type the safest. Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better idea of which type of car seat to invest in, and you know a few common mistakes to avoid when installing a car seat.
With two kids of my own, I’m passionate about child safety! I’m a research nerd who’s on a mission to make the world a safer place for kids – starting with car seats!
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