Beware of older car seats-Ask Dr. Paul Library

DEAR DR.PAUL: We are expecting our second baby soon. Can we use our 10-year-old son's old car seat for our new baby?

PEDIATRICIAN DR.PAUL ANSWERS: This is an excellent question and it gives me the opportunity to discuss car seat use in general. Before I answer your question let me say that we all agree that every child should be in an age-appropriate, safe, and properly-installed car seat until he is able to use a regular car seat belt properly. The other important point is that children less than 12 years of age should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag. The safest place for all children to ride in a car is in the back seat.

Now, to your question. The answer is probably no, because in general, older car seats do not meet today's safety requirements. The only way to find out is to call the manufacturer or your auto safety or transportation bureau to find out if the seat conforms to today's safety standards. They will also inform you if there have been any recalls on the particular model. Also, a lot of people do not realize if the car seat has been in a car crash it has likely been weakened and therefore should not be used - even if it looks okay.

When you are installing a car seat for the first time make sure that you do it properly (following the manufacturer's instructions) and make sure it fits well into your car. Remember, not all car seats fit all models of cars. Also, read your car's owner manual section on car seats, it may help make sure that the installation is done properly. It is important to keep the car seat instructions, as you will need them to adjust the seat as your baby gets older. It is also important to fill in and send in your registration card to the manufacturer, as it will be important in case you car seat is recalled.

Infants should ride facing the back of the car until they have reached at least one year of age and weigh at least 20 lbs. Children who weigh more than 20 lbs. and are older than one may face forward.

Parents often ask which brand or make of car seats is best. There really is no one seat that is the best or safest. The best car seat is the one that fits your baby's size and weight and can be correctly installed in your car. So it's important to "try before you buy", making sure the seat fits your child and fits your car. On a final note, it is important to know that in the case of an accident, an improperly-installed or otherwise unsafe car seat can result in severe injury to a child.

The best way to keep your child safe in the event of a car accident is to select a car seat that meets all current safety standards and make sure it is properly installed in your car.
For more specific information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Shopping Guide to Car Seats.

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