The Dangerous Car Seat Mistake Many Parents Don't Realize They're Making
LifeAspire Staff 6/2/2017
It's not that parents intentionally wish to be careless, but when it comes to children's car seat safety, many small details involved often get overlooked. There is also the issue of not rechecking the car seat installation every so often to make sure things haven't moved or loosened.
In short, it wouldn't be too far from the truth to assume that we end up spending more time in researching and buying the best car seat on the market, but might not dedicate enough energy in making sure it is installed and used to the best of it's ability.
So without further ado, here is a list of some of the common mistakes that people make with car seats, and how to correct them before your next car ride with the kids!
The first oversight on the list is the way a car seat is installed. Since 2002, all car seats are required to have a harness system that clips into the latches that are pre-installed in your vehicle. Usually, at least two back passenger seats in any given car model have these latches and since they are built into the frame, they offer more stability and security.
What most people don't realize however is that the weight limit on these latches is about 65 pounds, and this includes the weight of the child and the seat combined. While most of us don't have baby giants, we do have hefty car seats that weigh a ton. So do the math and see if your child has reached a point where the latches do not offer full protection. Once they exceed the weight limit, it's time to switch to the seat belt method.
Forward Facing Too Soon
Research has proved over and over again that kids in rear-facing car seats are more secure in a crash than when forward facing. Most car seats, depending on the make and model, come with a weight and height limit making it easy to know when to turn the child around. Many parents however, tend to make the move too early because it's fun to see your child's face and also because they refer not to their individual car seat requirement, but rather to a general guide they might see online or read about in a book.
It is also possible that for second and third time parents, they haven't paid attention to the new guidelines that now say that a toddler as old as 2-years-old should remain in a rear-facing car seat. Additionally, don't skimp on upgrading an infant car seat in a timely manner to make sure the seat is growing with your child and offering proper protection.
Not Using The Tether
Here is another little detail that can make a huge difference in the safety and security of your child. The tether system is something to consider in a forward facing car seat; it is that long belt that often just gets in the way of opening and closing the car door. But that belt actually goes over the top of the passenger seat in the car and attaches to a latch built-in with that vehicle seat.
Research has shown that when using a tether, your child's head will remain more secure instead of jerking forward and back in case of a crash. The difference seems to be about half a foot which considering how little their heads are, can mean a difference between injury or not.
Flickr/Intel Free Press
Incorrectly Fitted Harness
Now that the car seat is installed correctly in the direction appropriate for your child's age and weight, the next thing to check is the safety of the car seat harness itself. This is perhaps one of the most important yet often overlooked detail, since we want our kids to be comfortable in their seats instead of having that "strapped in" feel.
The rule is that once the child is properly buckled in, there should only be enough room to slide one finger between the belt and their shoulder; anything more and it's too loose. Think of it as not a car, but rather a parachute attached to the torso - certainly none of us wants to jump from a plane with a loose fitting life saver! Be sure to remove heavy winter coats before strapping them in!
Other Common Mistakes
- Usually parents are quick to put the car seat on either of the sides for convenience of getting in and out. But the center rear seat is 43% safer for children up to 3-years-old!
- Perform the tug-test after all the latches and tethers are installed; really give it a strong pull in all directions and the car seat should move only about an inch either way.
- Installing the seat takes some fierce force and this is where having two people to do the tugging, pushing, and adjusting is key to make sure the seat is tight and secure.
- When buckling the kids into the car seat, make sure the harnesses are not twisted and sit flat on their body.
We hope that we have equipped you with enough knowledge to make sure that the car seat for your child is installed and used to the best of its abilities. No matter how safe we might be on the road, there is no telling what other drivers are up to; and as such we should never take for granted the importance of properly using a car-seat.
Sources: Parent, Parenting, SafeRide4Kids, Baby Center FB Image Credit: YouTube/PennStateHershey, YouTube/Cars.com