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School is back in session which means you are busy shuttling your kids not just to and from school, but to gymnastics, soccer practice, football games, etc. Safety is your No. 1 concern when it comes to driving, and it’s even more important when you’re traveling with children. The proper car seat is crucial. Here are some safety professionals’ recommendations on how to protect your most precious cargo:

  • Check the safety label. Make sure it meets or exceeds federal safety requirements for carrying children.
  • Be wary of used seats. A previously owned seat that is more than six years old may not be safe. Look for missing parts, cracks, or other signs of wear and tear. Call the manufacturer to ask about durability and recalls.
  • Get the seat that fits your child. Infant seats are designed for children from birth to about 20-35 pounds. Some can be converted to hold a child up to about 40 pounds. Otherwise, you’ll need a front-facing safety seat capable of holding children until they reach 40 pounds, and after that a booster seat can be used until they hit about 80 pounds, if necessary or desired. Keep careful track of how big your children grow.
  • Learn the safety belt test. Do the child’s knees bend at the edge of a regular car seat? Does the belt ride low on his or her hips? Does the shoulder belt lie on the child’s collar or shoulder? Does the child sit comfortably with a seat belt and shoulder strap correctly fastened? If any of the answers to these questions are no, keep the child in a safety seat until he or she has grown sufficiently enough to ride along with only a safety belt.

It is also important to remember that as your children grow, they learn how to unbuckle themselves from car seats, which proves to be not just dangerous for the child, but a distraction to the driver. Double-check that your child’s seat is installed properly, and that children are fastened securely.

Following these simple steps when choosing and using a child’s safety seat will keep your little ones as safe as possible and will keep you a happy parent.