Driving is difficult and dangerous. According to the World Health Organization, out of almost 200 countries in 2018, India ranked first in the number of reported roadside deaths, accounting for 11% of global roadside fatalities. And according to India's Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, twenty children under the age of 14 die in road safety accidents every day. While the data and reality of driving in India can be scary, there are many steps we can take as parents to protect our children in the car. In this post, I will focus on why we all must use car seats when driving in India, information about the different types of baby car seats, and tips on how to use car seats effectively.
What kind of Baby Car Seat is suitable for my child?
There are 3 types of baby car seats. The most appropriate option will depend on the age, height, and weight of your child.
1. Infant Car Seat
The infant car seat is a rear-facing car seat that includes a handle so that you can remove the car seat and carry your infant or toddler inside without waking him or her up.
- The infant car seat is designed for infants and toddlers up to one and a half years old or 18 kgs, whichever comes first.
- The infant car seat has a base that you harness to the car, and then the seat itself hooks and unhooks into the base.
We used an infant car seat for the first year with our daughter. Infants sleep a lot, especially in the car. Being able to put her in and take her out of the car without waking her was SO helpful.
2. Convertible Car Seat
The convertible car seat can be used either as a front or rear-facing car seat.
- Children under one year or 8 kg, sit in the car seat in a rear-facing position, which is the safest option.
- After 1 year of age and up to 20 kg, they can sit in the car seat in a forward-facing position.
- The convertible car seat has only one piece, which is harnessed directly to the car.
After our daughter turned one, we transitioned to a convertible car seat but only used its forward-facing option.
3. Booster Car Seat
Booster car seats are the next sequential option once your child outgrows the height and weight limits of the front-facing car seats.
- Basically, the booster seat raises the height of your child so that the car’s seat belt correctly fits over their sternum and across their thighs.
- There are two different kinds of booster car seats, backless and high back.
We currently use the high back booster car seat with our daughter, which gives her a bit more impact protection on the sides. While the backless is easier to move from car to car, honestly, our high back booster is easy to move around, too. I'd suggest going for the extra protection.
General tips when buying a Child Safety Car Seat
Below are some of the general tips when choosing a car seat. Car seat designs and safety features change and improve year to year. My first piece of advice is to spend some time making sure you understand what type of car seat fits your child, and then check out product reviews from a variety of sources to find your best option.
How To Choose the Best Car Safety Seat for Your Child
- The backseat is the safest place for our kids to ride
Even after your children outgrow their car seat, the safest place for them to ride in the car is the back seat. In fact, it is recommended children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat.
- Consider the harness type
Car seats generally come in either a 3- or 5-point harness system. This simply means the number of straps that fit around your child.
- Consider the seat’s side-impact protection
This is an important one for me, especially considering the condition of the roads in India. Generally, product reviews will tell you how well or not well a car seat is protected for side-impact. Check this feature out when looking at your product reviews.
- Make sure your car has the car seat latches
As the older brother of three siblings back in the early 1990s, car seats were held in place with the car's seat belt. Before my spouse and I bought our first car seat, I had no idea that for several years, carmakers in the United States installed latches to hold the car seat in place. If this is new to you, let me explain. In almost every car produced after 2010, just behind the back seat where the seat belt buckle is bolted in place, are metal “latches”, or hooks welded to your vehicle's frame.
Baby Car seats today are designed to latch onto these hooks to hold the car seat in place. In 2014 the government of India mandated all new cars must include these latches. So, double-check that your vehicle has these latches before buying your car seat. If your vehicle does not have these latches, that’s ok. It just means you will attach your car seat the old-fashioned way using the seat belt.
- Consider the size of your car
If possible, take the car seat out of the box and see how it fits in your car before buying it. Or if you’re ordering off Amazon, and it doesn’t fit, don’t be shy about sending it back. First, as noted above, make sure the arms from the car seat that latch to your car aligns with the clips of the vehicle. Second, some car seats are just larger than others, so be sure you are maximizing the space in your back seat. For example, some car seat designs may help you fit a car seat plus two additional passengers instead of just one in the backseat.
- How comfortable is your car seat to move between vehicles
We move our car seat between cars often. Being able to quickly and easily move the car seat around is a big, obvious help.
- How do I know when to change to the next size up car seat
Every car seat will provide specific weight, age, and height limits. So, remember to check those limits as your child grows up and make the change when it’s time.
According to the World Health Organization, infants are 70% safer, and older children 50% to 80% safer, when they use car seats and seat belts as designed. While India has tried to address road safety through legislation, enforcement, and publicity campaigns, change is unfortunately very slow. As parents, we must control what we can, and a no-brainer is ensuring our children are traveling in quality car seats. If you have advice or car seat recommendations, please share below.