When a family who is all ready at or near the federal poverty guidelines finds out they will need another (or a new) car seat, they often seek low income help with car seats. Because every state has a car seat law, and car seats reduce injury to infants and children, it is important that families get the help they need.
Car Seat Safety
Traffic accidents happen to anyone, regardless of income. Therefore, parents should make sure their child is protected by using a car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using the following types of seats for your child:
- Restrain children under one year of age and below 20 pounds in a rear-facing infant seat. The APP recommends placing children in a rear-acing convertible seat as long as possible, per manufacturer guidelines.
- Toddlers and preschools need to use a convertible safety seat.
- Booster seats are best for school-aged children who have outgrown safety seats but still cannot ride safely using just the vehicle harness.
Car seats save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports in its 2006 Traffic SafetyFacts on Children and Crashes that safety seat use in passenger cars result in a 71 percent reduction in the risk of fatal injury for infants and a 54 percent reduction in the risk of fatal injury for toddlers.
Each state has varying laws regarding child safety seats, so be sure to check your state's laws. Additionally, make sure you follow manufacturer instructions to ensure proper installation in your vehicle. To make sure your child is properly restrained, visit a NHTSA child safety seat inspection station near you.
Find Low Income Help with Car Seats
Families that need low income help with car seats should check with a number of local agencies to find out how to obtain a free or reduced-cost car seat. Contact your the Department of Human Services (DHS) or welfare office for assistance in finding help with your car seat. Other places to contact include:
- Hospital or doctor's office
- Car or health insurer
- United Way
- Salvation Army
- Fire department or other organization that provides car seat safety checks
Even if the organization you contact cannot provide you with a car seat, it may have a list of groups who can assist you. Some programs might require proof of identification that the child is yours as well as income verification. Discuss the particular guidelines with the organization you contact.
Secondhand Car Seat Information
A number of car seats are available secondhand through friends, relatives, rummage sales and groups like Freecycle. However, using a secondhand car seat can pose risks to your child.
- Crashes: Car seat safety is compromised when it is in a crash, and unless you know the person providing it, you cannot verify whether it was in a crash or not.
- Recalls: When a manufacturer defect is detected that impairs the safety of the car seat, it is recalled. While current owners who send in the original registration will receive notification, as a secondhand owner, you will not. Find recall information at the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation.
- Installation Guides: Proper installation of a car seat is key to providing a safe seat for your child. Used car seats often do not have the installation guide.
While it can be tempting to purchase a used car seat, you do not want to compromise the safety of your child in order to save a few dollars. Instead, follow these tips to find a cheap new car seat:
- Comparison shop to find the best car seat for your family. Just because a car seat is expensive does not necessarily mean it is safer than lower-priced models.
- Watch for sales throughout the year, such as "baby days sales" or holiday sales, when baby products are discounted.
- Purchase a new car seat whose color or design is being discontinued by the manufacturer. An older seat is often on clearance right before or after a newly-designed car seat is released for sale.
Families who need a car seat should seek out help from organizations that help low income people. The safety of your child is of utmost importance.