Car Seats: 5 Mistakes You May be Making
As parents, you will go above and beyond to keep your children safe. You make sure your children have the safest products, food, drinks, and accessories on the market. But, have you ever stopped to think, “Yes, I have the safest gadgets – but am I using them correctly?” Daily Mom has put together 5 more mistakes you may be making with your car seat.
We cannot stress enough how important having the correct car seat is — as well as making sure it is installed properly. We know how exciting it is when your children graduate to sitting up by themselves, or using a spoon by themselves for the first time or even climbing up the playground without your help, but please take your time when it comes to car seats. The longer you keep your children rear-facing, the safer they are.
The National Safety Council reported, “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3 out of 4 parents do not properly use child restraints. Often installation is incorrect or the wrong type of seat is being used for the child’s height, weight or age. For these children, the safety seat may not be protecting them the way it should.”(1)
1. Pick One Way to Install!
Either use the seat belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to install the car seat. As a parent you think you are providing more safety by using both when installing the car seat – but in reality you aren’t. The LATCH system was added to vehicles around 12 years ago to make car seat installation much easier on parents, however, it is just as safe as using a seat belt. (2) If both options are available in your car, choose whichever system gives you the most secure installation. There are so many different car seats available today and some will work better with LATCH and others will be more secure with a seat belt.
2. Forward and Rear Facing
The NHTSA says, “Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.”(3) This means that technically your child can stay rear-facing until he or she is almost 4 years old. BUT, this is all dependent upon your child’s height and your specific car seat manual’s height requirement. Be sure to check your seat’s requirements!
3. Chest Strap Placement
Some people may think this is common knowledge but a lot of people forget that the chest clip is actually supposed to be at nipple/armpit level.
4. Tightness of Harness
If you can fit more than 2 fingers between the strap and the child when measuring just below the chest clip – it is too loose. Also, take the time to untangle any twists in those straps! They should be flat and flush against your child.
5. Using Top Tether When Rear-Facing
When a car seat is rear-facing some seats do not allow the use of the top tether. You only use it after you have turned your child to forward-facing unless your seat manufacturer specifically allows it (currently Britax, Diono, some Combi seats, some Peg Perego seats. The top tether (while forward-facing) allows the child to ride out the impact of an accident, if one was to occur. If it is used rear-facing against manufacturer recommendations, it wouldn’t allow the car seat to absorb the impact to its fullest, and it would cause a “snap-back” of the car seat – which is potentially harmful to the child.
After speaking with Trooper First Class Gammon with Georgia State Patrol, who is a child safety seat technician, he said, “It is a common mistake that goes against most manufactures’ recommendations suggestions” when talking about the top tether. “Misuse of the top tether is one of the top five mistakes I’ve seen in my 10 years of experience.”
The CDC reported that “car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles.“(4) Those statistics don’t lie!
Always remember that information is the best weapon to keep your children as safe as humanly possible. Know all the facts so you can make an informed decision about car seats as well as installation and when to forward face. And, make sure you always read your car seat’s manual, as well as check your vehicle owner manual when installing any child safety seat or booster.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin
Photo Credit: Becca P, The Memoirs of Megan
- National Safety Council
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Parents Central
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention