The safest car seat for your child

Aside from the car itself, your child's car seat is their primary protection in a crash. So it's important to pick the safest seat for every stage of their development.

Consumer Reports recommends that children move through three types of car seats as they grow. Babies should ride in a detachable, rear-facing-only infant seat that snaps in and out of a base that's anchored to the vehicle.

After that, they should move to a convertible seat that's first installed facing the rear, then switched to forward-facing as the child gets older.

And last, kids should transition to a booster seat, which raises them up to allow the car's seat belts to fit safely.

Conventional wisdom has been that parents should keep children in an infant seat until they have outgrown it based on height or weight. But Consumer Reports' crash-test results, combined with the fact that many babies will outgrow their infant seat by height rather than weight, refine that transition point. Consumer Reports now advises parents to move their children from infant seats to rear-facing convertible seats by their 1st birthday to prevent potential head injuries.

Once your child does transition to a convertible seat, Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping them rear-facing until he or she is at least 2 years old or has reached the maximum weight or height limit for a rear-facing convertible seat. Why? Because real-world crash data show there's a reduced rate of head and spine injuries when children ride facing the rear.

Getting the Right Fit

Your child seat should fit not only your child but also your car. If you can't test-fit a seat before purchasing it, make sure you can return or exchange the seat if it doesn't work out.

Here are some tips to help you install a child seat in your vehicle:

-- Carefully read the manuals for both the car and the seat.

-- Check the recline angle of rear-facing seats. That's critical, especially for newborns. An overly upright seat may allow an infant's head to fall forward, obstructing his or her breathing. Look for rear-facing seats with a built-in level indicator to help you get the seat properly reclined.

-- Child seats can be installed using your vehicle's seat belts, but it's often easier to get a secure fit using LATCH, a standardized system of anchors built into most vehicles since September 2002.

-- To secure a forward-facing child car seat, always attach and tighten the top tether, whether the seat is installed with the LATCH system or a seat belt.

-- You might have to remove the vehicle's head restraint to allow a forward-facing seat to fit properly against the vehicle's seatback.

-- Make sure that the harness is tight enough; you shouldn't be able to pinch any fabric at your child's shoulder.

-- Go to safekids.org to find out where and when you can have your seat installation checked for free.

To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org

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Drones are changing your world

Depending on what you've read, drones are devastatingly effective weapons of war, the next big threat to personal privacy, a revolutionary leap in video technology or hazardous toys capable of chopping your fingers off.

Consumer Reports looks at some of the innovative ways that researchers and pioneering companies are developing to use these flying robots right now.

-- Package delivery. In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said about 86 percent of the orders the online retailer ships weigh less than 5 pounds. That's lightweight enough to be delivered by drone. Amazon is now testing autonomous aircraft that can drop a book or a pair of shoes at your home within 30 minutes of receiving an order. So it's not difficult to imagine a day when you no longer have to rush out to the store in your pajamas for a quart of milk.

-- Agriculture. In recent years, farmers have discovered that drones are very useful for monitoring the health of their fields. When fourth-generation grain and apple farmer Jeff VanderWerff gets a commercial license, he plans to put the craft to use on the family's 1,800-acre Michigan grain farm. Aerial imagery from a drone equipped with an NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) camera could help him accurately estimate the yield of a crop in July, rather than waiting until harvest in October. With special software, he could analyze that imagery, spotting crops beset by diseases, weeds and flooding while there's still time to save them. And he could then use the drone to efficiently apply fertilizers and pesticides.

-- Photos and videos. The soaring panoramas captured by drones are compelling enough to have made their way into movies such as "Captain America: Civil War," and "The Wolf of Wall Street," as well as CNN's coverage of the earthquakes in Italy and Ecuador a year ago. According to Consumer Reports, real estate agents and travel hot spots are embracing the technology, too, to promote their scenic offerings.

-- Humanitarian aid. Some 1.3 billion to 2.1 billion people on the planet don't have access to essential medicines, the World Health Organization says, often because they live in hard-to-reach places. To address that concern, California drone-maker Zipline signed a deal with the government of Rwanda last February to shuttle supplies to remote areas on demand. With "Zip" drones, which cover a roughly 50-mile radius, a health center in Rwanda can send a text message to order blood for a patient with severe malaria-related anemia, and it shows up via parachute within 40 minutes.

Consumer Reports notes that similar efforts involving organizations such as UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders and the companies Matternet and Vayu are already underway in Malawi, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. Last August, the Obama administration announced that it would partner with private-sector firms to begin testing the idea on Maryland's Smith Island, Washington's San Juan Islands and Nevada's Pyramid Lake Tribal Health Clinic.

To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org

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