Car Seat Safety – Avoiding the 10 Most Common Mistakes

Installation of a car seat is extremely important. Here are the top 10 most common mistakes when installing or purchasing a car seat and here are ways on how you as a parent can avoid them:

1.    Getting a used car seat without researching it’s history: If you’re considering a hand-me-down car seat for your child, make sure the car seat:

Comes with instructions and a label showing the manufacture date and model number

Hasn’t been recalled

Isn’t expired or more than 6 years old

Has no visible damage or missing parts

Has never been in a moderate or severe crash

2.    Placing the car seat in the wrong spot: A child’s car seat should always be placed in the backseat, away from the air bags. If the car is placed in the front seat and the air bags deploy, it could hit the back of the rear-facing car seat and cause serious or fatal injuries to your child.
3.    Using a car seat as a replacement crib: A car seat is designed to protect your child during travel, not to be used as a replacement crib at home. A 2009 study showed that sitting upright in a car seat might compress a newborn’s chest and lead to lower levels of oxygen. This can impact a child’s development pretty severely. Also, try not to leave your child in the car seat for a long period of time.
4.    Incorrectly installing the car seat or buckling up your child: Before you install the car seat, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Make sure the seat is tightly secured and there is no more than 1 inch of movement from side to side and front to back.
5.    Reclining your child at the incorrect angle: In the rear-facing position, recline the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions so that you child’s head does not fall forward with every movement of the car. Many car seats include angle indicators or adjusters.
6.    Moving to a forward-facing car seat too soon: Resist the urge to place your child’s car seat in the forward-facing position just so that you can see their smile in your rearview mirror. Riding rear-facing is recommended until the child is about 2 or at the highest weight – about 35 pounds, or height allowed by the manufacturer.
7.    Dressing your child in bulky outerwear: Harness straps might not provide enough protection over a baby’s bulky attire. If it’s cold out, be sure to remove any bulky outerwear before strapping your baby in the car seat. If you are concerned about keeping your child warm, tuck a blanket around them after you have secured them in the seat.
8.    Moving to a booster seat too soon: Older children need booster seats. You can make this switch when your child has topped the highest weight – about 40 to 80 pounds – or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
9.    Incorrectly using a booster seat: Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt – never a lap-only belt. Make sure the lap belt lies low and snug across your child’s upper thighs and that the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder.
10.    Using the vehicle safety belt too soon: Most kids can safely use an adult seat belt sometime between 8 and 12 years old. Here’s how you know when your child is ready:

Your child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches.

Your child sits against the back of the seat with his or her knees bent comfortably at the edge of the seat — and can remain that way for the entire trip.

The lap belt rests flat and snugly across your child’s upper thighs, and the shoulder belt rests on the middle of your child’s shoulder and chest — not on the neck or face.

For more tips on how to avoid these common mistakes, visit the Mayo Clinic website.