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10 Car Seat Mistakes Most Parents Make

Katlyn Joy |24, October 2014


It's a grim reality; auto accidents are the number one cause of accidental death and injury in the US. However, the use of car seats and safety belts reduce that risk of injury by an incredible 71 to 82 percent and reduce risk of death by 28 percent compared to using seat belts alone.

However, according to the Automobile Association of America, 3 out of 4 car seats are improperly installed. That means only 1/4 of children who are buckled up are actually safe. Here are the most common errors parents make with car seats.

1. Loose installation of the car seat.

This is the number 1 mistake parents make, according to Consumer Reports. If you have installed a car seat properly, it won't move more than an inch in any direction. Many parents try to use the lower LATCH with seat belts. This is not recommended.

2. Positioning of the child in the car seat.

According to a study from the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital, a whopping 93 percent of parents didn't position their baby properly within the car seat. The majority of parents were positioning the child too loosely within the seat. Other mistakes included having the retainer clip too low, adding some after-market product that interfered with safety, having the harness too high or not adjusted properly.

3. Installing a used car seat without knowledge of its history.

It's important to know the history of any car seat you use. If it's been in a crash, it cannot be reused. It shouldn't be older than 6 years, and must not be missing parts or be damaged. You need to be able to read the manufacturer date and model number on its label, to keep up with any recalls.

4. Improper use of anchor.

Since 2002 this safety feature has been a required feature but an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that only 56 percent of the time was the feature even used. When it was in use, 31 percent were installed incorrectly. This anchor helps tether the seat in place.

5. Harnessing child at the wrong level.

These straps are at different levels depending on whether a child is forward or rear-facing, and most be adjusted as a child grows. That means they need checking frequently.

6. Angle the car seat improperly.

Children of different ages and sizes require different angles of recline. The youngest passengers who are rear-facing need the most reclining, while forward-facing older children need to be more upright for the seat to be positioned best for crash performance. Most seats have an angle-indicator to help with this.

7. Using products not designed for use with the car seat.

These may include head positioners, pillows, padding, mirrors, toys or other items. They may interfere with the seat's safety features, or become dangerous projectiles in a crash.

8. Putting the seat in the wrong spot in the vehicle.

Placing a car seat in the front seat of the car is unsafe due to air bags. These can actually cause fatal injuries whether the child is rear or forward facing. Place car seat in the middle of the back seat if possible. If you are in a vehicle with only one row of seats, switch off the air bag.

9. Pushing your baby or child to next level too soon.

Parents often seem in a rush, moving baby forward facing too soon, or putting a child in a booster before they are big enough, or taking them out of the car seat and into an adult seat belt. Know the guidelines and the instructions on the car seat.

10. Not having the car seat installation checked at a station.

Get a certified trained Child Passenger Safety Technician check out your car seat. Most local fire and police stations, and some hospitals provide this service.

Read the instruction manual, turn in the registration card, and get your car seat inspected. You may assume you are doing the right thing when you buckle baby up, but it's worth the time to make certain you aren't making a life-risking mistake.

Related Articles

Choosing the Best Car Seat

How to Secure Your Baby In the Car Seat?

Is Your Baby Safe With the New Car Seat Guidelines?

4 Million Bumbo Seats Voluntarily Recalled


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