Parents Report: Common Car Seat Mistakes

More About Car Seats

What About Side-Impact Protection?

Some car seats come equipped with a variety of features (retractable cup holders! ultra-plush padding!) that you -- and your wallet -- can do without. But should you choose a seat with side-impact protection? Unfortunately, there's no official recommendation, since the NHTSA has yet to develop a side-impact standard for car seats. (The premium side-impact seats are made in Europe, where the manufacturers conduct their own safety tests.)

The NHTSA has been working on guidelines that include side-impact protection since 2000. "This is a top priority at the agency, but the issue is deceptively complex and there are a number of challenges," says NHTSA spokesperson Rae Tyson. One reason for the holdup: Experts have to design a child-size dummy that can measure side-impact energy before they begin collision tests.

Until a standard is in place, many experts still say it's best to look for a car seat that offers side-impact protection. "The deep side wings, made of energy-absorbent foam, along the head and body of the seat, as well as the adjustable headrest could go a long way toward protecting your child," explains Dr. Jana.

Get a Second Opinion

Even if you think you've aced the installation of your child's car seat, let a certified child-passenger safety-seat inspector make sure you haven't made any errors. To find an inspection spot near you, go to or call the Department of Transportation's hotline at 888-327-4236.

Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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