The car seat—You can’t leave home without it, especially if you have an infant and until your child can fit properly with seat belt only. Why are car seats so important? Well, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old. Many times deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters, and seat belts. As a child passenger safety technician (CPST), educating parents on the common mistakes they could be making is something that I teach in my Car Seat Safety Class and Newborn Basics. Here are some mistakes you are making:
- Car seat is too loose. Give it a good tug at the base where the seat belt goes through it. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? Car seats should move less than one inch side-to-side and front-to-back. With an infant carrier this is the base and for a convertible car seat, the whole car seat should not move.
- Your harness is in the wrong slot. In a rear-facing car seat the harness (straps) should be set slightly below the child’s shoulders. A forward-facing car seat’s harness should be set slightly above the child’s shoulders.
- Your harness is too loose. A loose harness doesn’t provide adequate protection in case of a crash.The harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots. Do a pinch test by grabbing the webbing in a pinching motion. If you can pinch any webbing of the harness, it is too loose.
- The chest clip is not in the right spot. The chest clip when buckled needs to be at armpit level. I commonly see chest clips below armpit level. In a crash, internal injuries could occur or your child maybe eject from the seat; too high and the child could suffer a neck injury
- Your child is not in the right seat. Sometimes we are excited for our child to hit that milestone when it comes to moving to the next-stage in car seats and sometimes we are doing it too soon. Make sure you following the guidelines according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Here is another resource.
- Not registering your car seat. In the event of a safety recall all manufacturers are required to notify all registered owners by first class mail that their child restraint is included in the recall. If you lose the card that came with the car seat, you maybe able to register your car seat online on the manufacturer’s website.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your car seat. Here’s a quick car seat checklist to help you out. It takes only few minutes to make sure your child is safe.