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Consumer Reports Car Seats

Consumer Reports Car Seats
  •    News
  •    April 11, 2017
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Consumer Reports Car Seats

Aside from the car itself, your child’s car seat is the primary protection in a crash. So it’s important to pick the safest seat for every stage of his or her development. Consumer Reports recommends that children move through three types of car seats as they grow to ensure they are in the safest car seat for them. Babies should ride in a detachable, rear-facing-only infant seat that snaps in and out of a base that’s anchored to the vehicle. After that, they should move to a convertible seat that’s first installed facing the rear, then switched to forward-facing as the child gets older. And last, kids should transition to a booster seat, which raises them up to allow the car’s seat belts to fit safely. (See our car seat timeline.) Conventional wisdom has been that parents should keep children in an infant seat until they have outgrown it based on height or weight. But our crash-test results, combined with the fact than many babies will outgrow their infant seat by height rather than weight, refine that transition point. Consumer Reports now advises parents to move their children from infant seats to rear-facing convertible seats by their first birthday to prevent potential head injuries. (Learn how Consumer Reports tests car seats.) All of the child seats marketed in the U.S. must meet federal safety standards. Our crash testing determines whether a seat provides an additional margin of safety beyond the government standard. We evaluate car seats by testing them on a seat cushion that better represents the dimensions and firmness of the seats in current vehicles rather than the flatter, softer “test bench” equipment required by the government. We also test at a higher crash speed (35 mph) and with the addition of a simulated front seatback surface that resembles the environment of a real vehicle. Government tests are done at 30 mph and don’t include a simulated seatback. Our rear-facing crash-test results showed that a dummy representing a 12-month-old child was protected from striking its head against the simulated front seatback in 24 of 25 convertible models. In contrast, when using the same-sized dummy in infant seats, 16 of the 30 seats allowed head contact. Research shows that when a child suffers a serious injury in a crash, it’s frequently because of head contact with an interior component, such as the front seatback. Once your child does transition to a convertible seat, Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping them rear-facing until he or she is at least 2 years old or has reached the maximum weight or height limit for a rear-facing convertible seat. Why? Because real-world crash data show there’s a reduced rate of head and spine injuries when children ride facing the rear. Not only is it best to keep your child rear-facing until at least age 2, it’s now the law in some states. Since 2015, California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have passed laws requiring children to sit rear-facing until that age. Failure to comply can result in a fine. Child-seat manufacturers are also getting onboard. Evenflo seats and some Dorel products will begin to be labeled with the recommendation that children be 2 years old before facing forward. Britax has also begun labeling some of its forward-facing seats with a minimum recommended age of 2. It’s easy to assume that making the transition from an infant seat to a convertible is the right time to also switch to a forward-facing position. But a change in seat type shouldn’t mean a change in orientation. Convertible seats can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing configurations. This will probably be the seat your child sits in for the longest period of time. You might think that your kid looks uncomfortable riding rear-facing, but research has found that children are just as comfortable, if not more so, riding that way as those who face forward. Children are much more flexible than adults, so even though their folded legs might look awkward, it probably doesn’t feel that way to them.
consumer reports car seats 1

Consumer Reports Car Seats

8 Responses Heidi August 31, 2016 I can get free access to Consumer Reports through my local library. It’s available under Online Resources in Masterfile. I bet other libraries give access to this also. Reply Danielle B. August 31, 2016 It seems that for some seats that are similarly the lower weight limit seat is rated better. Is this because those seats aren’t tested with a heavier ATD and perhaps the higher limit seats perform fine with the smaller SHORTER ATD? Reply BB September 1, 2016 Interesting article! Are you going to also comment the Consumer report crash results for the toddler/booster seats? It would be great Reply SafeDad September 1, 2016 Hi, BB. Consumer Reports has not yet evaluated forward-facing only seats, combination harness/booster seats or all-in-one products to their new testing protocol, yet. Existing ratings use their old methodology and do not yet include some newer models. Once these categories are updated to their new testing, we will definitely have a discussion about it. Reply Adam October 6, 2016 I was curious if you have feedback about using a car seat belt extender for a high back booster seat (6.5 year old sits in it). We are figuring out the best way to make it easy for our daughter to Buckle between two car seats infant/toddler in a tight space. We found the company by same name sealbeltextenders as the only option. Any help would be appreciated thanks! Reply Heather October 12, 2016 Hi Adam. Seat belt extenders aren’t recommended by any carseat manufacturer because they can change the geometry of the seat belt on the child. An extender can also place the buckle in a place on the booster that may cause it to unbuckle in a crash. Oftentimes, the best solution is to put a child back into a harnessed seat until they reach the top weight and height limits. It’s not one that’s favored since most kids like the freedom of a booster, but if a child still fits in a harnessed seat, it can be easier to buckle and unbuckle than a booster in a 3-across situation. Reply Adam October 13, 2016 Thanks for the clear response. Unfortunately we can’t put three harnessed car seats in one row. We’ll have to make the best of the situation. What would you say having the middle seat belt pre-buckled as option? So my child then slides in? Thanks Reply Heather October 13, 2016 That is definitely an option. I’ve heard of kids doing that. The only thing I’d caution you about is if your daughter pulls the shoulder belt too far out, it most likely will lock the seat belt (most vehicle seat belts lock this way for carseat installation) so as it retracts back into the retractor, it will get tighter and more uncomfortable on her. The only way to unlock it is to unbuckle it and let it retract fully. If she’s careful, though, it should work. Reply
consumer reports car seats 2

Consumer Reports Car Seats

As your child outgrows his infant car seat, a convertible seat is the next step. This versatile seat can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing configurations, and will likely be the one your child sits in for the longest period of time. A convertible seat is a must in order to keep your child rear-facing until the recommended age of 2 years old. Most kids will outgrow an infant or rear-facing-only seat long before that age. Based on our recent tests, Consumer Reports recommends you transition your child to a rear-facing convertible seat by age 1 because of a key potential safety benefit. We found that in more than half of the infant seats we tested, the 12-month-old child dummy had head contact against the simulated front seatback, which could result in injury. By contrast, in nearly all of the rear-facing convertible seats, the 12-month-old dummy avoided head contact. (Learn more about how we test car seats.) We tested the convertible child seats to our revised crash test protocol (first implemented with infant seats), and the result is a new lineup of the best performing convertible seats. These models have the highest overall scores, representing balanced performance in all three test areas: fit-to-vehicle, ease-of-use, and crash performance.
consumer reports car seats 3

Consumer Reports Car Seats

3 Terms to Learn Here’s a quick look at the most common features on the different seat types. When installing, be sure to follow the vehicle owner’s manual and seat instructions, and consider having your installation checked by a Child Passenger Safety Technician at a car seat checkup event. LATCH Connectors A harnessed child seat will be equipped with either push-on, hook-style, or rigid lower anchor LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) connectors. These attach to the lower anchors embedded in the crease of the vehicle seat. All cars built after 2002 have these LATCH anchors. They have a weight limit, so when the combined weight of your child and car seat exceeds 65 lbs., install the seat using the vehicle’s own seat belt. Top Tether Strap Forward-facing harness seats include a top tether strap that anchors to the vehicle seat and keeps the shell of the child seat secure, significantly reducing potential for head injuries. We recommend you secure the top tether for all forward-facing installations. Harness System All infant, convertible, all-in-one, and toddler booster seats have a built-in adjustable harness system. As your child grows, you’ll need to continually adjust their harness so that straps are located correctly. In rear-facing seats, harness straps should be at or below the baby’s shoulders. In forward-facing seats, straps should be at or above the shoulders. Many harnesses are adjusted by rethreading the straps through slots in the fabric and seat shell, while some offer an easier, external harness adjustment option. In all cases, the chest clip should be at armpit level. The harness is tight enough when you can’t pinch any strap fabric at the child’s shoulders. Recline Indicator If a seat can be installed rear-facing, a recline indicator tells you if it’s at the correct angle. (We find ball or bubble indicators easier to read than a simple level line.) Some seats have recline ranges for different ages—babies start out more reclined to avoid obstructing their breathing, then get more upright as they get older, allowing more room for front seat passengers. Accessories Many seats come with covers/pads/cushions to help with fit and give a more comfy ride. Only use accessories that are approved for your particular car seat by the car seat manufacturer.

Consumer Reports Car Seats

Consumer Reports Car Seats
Consumer Reports Car Seats
Consumer Reports Car Seats

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