A car seat is one of the most crucial pieces of safety equipment you'll ever use, so shouldn't it be simple for even a sleep-deprived parent to install? Unfortunately, many moms and dads don't realize they're making dangerous mistakes. "Despite design improvements, parents still find car seats very confusing," says pediatrician Benjamin Hoffman, MD, a certified child passenger safety technician. "I've done more than 4,000 seat checks and seen only 13 seats that were installed properly."
We at Parents realize it's no small task to get every detail correct. You have to know exactly when your child has outgrown his seat, buy a new one that fits him perfectly (and master a new set of installation guidelines), get the strap placement just right, and much more. It's enough to make you think you need a PhD in engineering to figure it all out. That's why we created this comprehensive -- yet easy to understand -- guide to help you navigate the complicated world of car seats. "The good news is that car seats are extraordinarily effective," says Parents advisor Dennis R. Durbin, MD, director of research for emergency medicine at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "When you use one correctly, you can be confident that your child will be likely to survive a crash with little or no injury."