Top Car Seat Safety Mistakes to Avoid | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

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 parents 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.”

When it comes to car seats, it’s no small task to get every detail correct. You must know exactly when your child has outgrown their seat, buy a new one that fits them 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.

“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.”

Read on to determine whether you’re making any of these car seat safety mistakes—and fix them today.

The Car Seat Is Too Loose in Your Car

Researchers have found that in the U.S., 49-95% of people misuse child restraints in a car, resulting in reduced car seat effectiveness. Loose installation is one of the most common misuses.

In a collision, a child in a loose seat could crash into the back of the front seat and seriously injure their face or head. So, ensuring your car seat is perfectly snug is one of the top car seat safety considerations.

Test for this car seat safety mistake

With both hands, grasp the car seat at the base. You shouldn’t be able to move the safety seat side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the belt path. If you can move it more than an inch, it’s not tight enough.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Read the car seat’s instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner manual on car seat installation. Every car seat needs to be installed using either the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system or a locked seat belt to secure it in place.

The LATCH system is included in many cars. It is an attachment system where lower anchors can be used to attach the car seat instead of seat belts. Many people find these are easier to use than seat belts. It is also OK to use both.

If you use a seat belt to install your car seat, place your knee in the seat and put all your weight into it (use your arm for an infant seat), tightening the seat belt as much as possible. Then, lock the seat belt — a step that many parents miss.

The Harness Is Too Loose on Your Child

Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., in Torrance, California, says a child loose in their harness can easily come out of their seat in a crash. They could then be severely injured if they hit part of the car’s interior or another passenger. The worst-case scenario is that the child is ejected from the vehicle altogether.

Test for this car seat safety mistake

If, after you’ve tightened your child into their car seat, you can still pinch the fabric of the harness straps between your fingers, the harness is too loose, says Tombrello.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Tighten the harness. Keep in mind that the straps should be snug and have no slack.

Your Infant Is Facing Forward Too Soon

The bones that protect an infant’s spinal cord are still forming. When a child is rear-facing, their back—the strongest part of their body—can better absorb the immense forces of a crash.

Facing forward, an infant’s relatively heavy head can catapult forward, causing their underdeveloped spine to expose the spinal cord and putting them at risk of paralysis or death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should remain in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. This is usually from birth until age 2 to 4, depending on when a child meets the seat’s maximum height and weight limit.

Test for this car seat safety mistake

Experts used to recommend that kids stay rear-facing until age 2. However, since car seat performance is based on size, those recommendations have changed to reflect kids’ height and weight.

So, the best way to test for this mistake is to read your car seat owner’s manual (or find the sticker on the seat) to determine if they still meet the height and weight requirements for the seat.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Follow the rules. Keep your baby rear-facing until they’ve reached the maximum height or weight limit of the seat.

Your Rear-Facing Car Seat Is Not at the Right Angle

An infant’s airway is very narrow—about the diameter of a soda straw. If your rear-facing seat leans too far forward, your baby’s disproportionately heavy head could fall forward, cutting off their airway so they can’t breathe.

So, installing the car seat base at the correct recline angle is important to ensure your infant’s airway stays open. Fortunately, many car seats have built-in angle indicators to help you.

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Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your child’s head does not flop forward. Check your car seat manual to find out the correct angle for your seat and how to adjust the angle if needed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), all rear-facing seats should have built-in angle indicators or adjusters.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

While most rear vehicle seats are sloped toward the back of the car for the comfort of adult passengers, safety seats are designed to be installed on a flat surface. However, many safety seats have an adjustable pedestal to overcome this.

If the seat doesn’t have an adjustable pedestal, do what technicians do at car seat checks:

“We place sections of a cut-up swimming pool noodle under the area where the baby’s feet rest,” says San Diego police officer Mark McCullough, a certified child-passenger-safety instructor. “Tightly rolled-up towels also work well.”

The Harness Chest Clip Is in the Wrong Spot

When the harness chest clip is in the wrong place, the straps can easily slip off a child’s shoulders, placing a child at risk of being ejected from their seat in a crash.

Test for this car seat safety mistake

The harness chest clip should be at the center of the chest at armpit level. The clip assures that the harness straps are in the right place.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Parents often move the clip as they maneuver their child out of the seat. So, check the clip’s position every time you buckle up.

The Harness Straps Are in the Wrong Slots

When the child faces forward, a harness in the lower slots can break through the seat during a collision. A good rule is to check the harness placement whenever you move or adjust the seat.

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Most convertible car seats are designed with three sets of harness slots: The lower two sets are for the rear-facing position, and the top set is for the forward-facing position.

On most seats, once the seat faces forward, only the uppermost slots have the extra reinforcement necessary to keep the harness secure in a collision. Yet, parents often turn the seat around without adjusting the straps.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Move the shoulder straps to the slots at or above your child’s shoulders or position at or closest to (above or below, based on rear or forward facing) the child’s shoulders.

Check the instructions that came with the seat to be sure you are positioning the shoulder straps correctly. You may have to adjust the seat’s recline angle so that it sits more upright in your vehicle. Check the instructions to be sure.

You’re Not Using a Booster Seat

An adult seat belt alone doesn’t properly restrain a child because it crosses their body at the wrong spots. Adult belts cross kids’ bodies high up on their bellies, high up across their shoulders, and sometimes even across their necks.

Children often move the shoulder belt behind them because it’s uncomfortable. In a crash, a child who’s too small for a seat belt can sustain massive internal organ damage or head and spinal injuries and can even be ejected.

To top it off, even if you use a booster seat since car seat recommendations are by size rather than age, some kids who graduate to booster seats may not use them correctly. Research has found that some children physically compatible with booster seats are not behaviorally mature enough to use them. That means it may be wise to leave younger kids in harnessed seats longer.

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The AAP recommends that when children exceed the limits of a forward-facing car seat (many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more), they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Go out and buy your child a booster seat today! If your child is too young to use a booster seat correctly (for example, they pull their arms out of the belt or wiggle out of the strap), consider buying a harnessed seat that holds larger kids (some forward-facing models go up to 70-90 pounds).

And a reminder: Kids younger than 13 should always ride in the back seat, never the front.

Your Car Seat Has Been Recalled

Car-seat recalls occur for various reasons, including faulty latches and flammable seat fabric. While some recalled seats don’t pose a fatal danger, many do. A faulty buckle could easily lead to disaster.

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Over the years, millions of safety seats have been recalled, but many are not repaired or replaced. Check yours against the list of recalled seats maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You’ll need to know your safety seat’s model name, model number, and manufacture date, all of which are on the seat.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

If you discover your seat has been recalled, contact the manufacturer for further instructions. And never buy a car seat at a garage sale or a secondhand store since it may have been recalled or involved in a collision.

Your Child Sleeps in the Car Seat Outside of the Car

When a child sleeps in a car seat outside the vehicle, the car seat can fall or flip. The straps may also cause fatal strangulation.

A 2015 study examined the hazards of sitting and carrying devices in children under 2. Researchers found that the main causes of death in car seats were strangulation by restraint straps and positional asphyxiation. In 89% of the cases, deaths occurred outside of the car.

Test for this car seat safety mistake

It’s easy to test for this car seat safety error. Even though your infant car seat may double as a carrier, remember that it is not intended for use outside of moving a child from the car to a location nearby. And none are intended for use as a sleeping device.

A May 2019 study from Pediatrics found that, of infant deaths occurring in sitting devices, 62.9% took place in car seats. More than half of these car seat deaths occurred inside the home under supervision. When the car seat was used in the car, deaths occurred in less than 10% of cases.

Fix this car seat safety mistake

Only use a car seat inside of the car. If your child falls asleep in their car seat during a drive, lay them on their back on a flat surface once you get home.


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