According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of death and injury among children is motor vehicle crashes. And it should come as no surprise, but simply using a car seat can reduce the risk of injury by a whopping 71 percent to 82 percent, according to the American Automobile Association. Still, a shocking study conducted in 2015 found that 95 percent of the families involved had made at least one serious error when using the car seat, and 91 percent made a very serious and life-threatening error. Only 15 percent of the study’s participants had actually worked with a certified car safety technician, and even amongst those, 83 percent still had at least one error. Are you curious about what people are doing wrong? Here are 10 car seat mistakes most parents make:
#1 – Picking the Wrong Car Seat
With so many to choose from, parents can easily get overwhelmed when selecting a car seat. Be sure you pick one that’s made for your child’s height and weight. You can get personalized help on SafeKids.org. (It’s illegal in most states, but never buy a used car seat. There’s no way to ensure it’s never been in an accident. Plus, they only have a life span of about 6 years.)
#2 – Not Reading the Manual
To ensure that your car seat will protect your children in the case of emergency, you need to make sure that you’re installing it correctly. Be sure to cross reference the car seat manual with your car’s manual. Most cars use the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), which shows how to install and where to place your car seat.
#3 – Not Registering the Car Seat
Every new car seat comes with a small registration card. Registering your car seat means that in the case of a recall you will be notified. To register you can mail the registration card to the provided address, go online to the manufacturer’s website, or use this website to find your car seat.
#4 – Installing the Car Seat Incorrectly
In order to work properly, the car seat needs to be installed properly. If you can move the car seat more than an inch in any direction, it is too loose. Here’s a video with tips for proper installation:
#5 – Facing the Car Seat in the Wrong Direction
Children should be facing the back of the vehicle, away from the air bags. They should continue facing backward until the age of 2, or when they outgrow the height or weight limits for the car seat.
#6 – Positioning the Car Seat at an Incorrect Angle
Rear-facing car seats need to be reclined between 30 and 45 degrees. Each car seat manufacturer has specific instructions for the angle the seat needs to be reclined. If a baby is strapped at an incorrect angle, the baby could slip out of their seat and cut off their air supply in the case of a car crash.
#7 – Positioning the Harness Incorrectly
The harness clip will need to be adjusted as your child gets bigger. If the clip is positioned too high you child can risk neck injuries. If it is positioned too low, your child can risk stomach trauma. Position the clip at or below shoulder height.
#8 – Not Tightening the Harness Enough
The harness strap that keeps your child in position should not be loose. The harness should fit close enough so it doesn’t have slack, but not so tight that it presses against your child’s skin. You can perform a “pinch test” to see if the harness is loose. Here’s how:
#9 – Using Booster Seats Incorrectly
A child can switch from a car seat to a booster seat after they have outgrown the height or weight limit of their car seat. And children should continue using a booster seat until they’re 4’9”. Why? Booster seats are used so that if an accident occurs, the seatbelt won’t tighten in a way that could injure your child. Using a booster seat with 4 to 8-year-olds reduces the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45 percent, according to the American Automobile Association.
#10 – Skipping a Free Consultation
If you’ve installed your car seat, but you’re still questioning your craftsmanship, don’t worry! Buckle Up for Life has a listing of nearby Car Seat Inspection Stations and Safety Technicians. A certified child passenger safety technician can double check and help you with your car seat.
One more thing – another huge mistake that many parents who have older children make: skipping the car seat “just this one time.” Maybe you’re in a hurry and you’re only driving a few blocks or the car seat is in the other car. “Whatever the reason, whatever the excuse, it should stop now,” writes Kate Rope on Parenting.com. “Why? Because 60% of crashes involving children happen within 10 minutes of home, more than three-quarters of them happen when the speed limit is 45 mph or less, and almost all of them happen when the driver is familiar with the route.”
Learn more using the following resources: