Unfortunately, statistics show that 9/10 car seats are being used incorrectly. When they use the term “incorrectly”, it can cover a wide variety of things-from being installed incorrectly, to the seat belt not being buckled properly, to turning littles forward facing too soon. Here is the top 10 most common mistakes care givers make with car seats-and how you can fix them.
- Turning a child forward facing too early.- It’s very strongly recommended that children remain rear facing until a minimum age of 2, if not until 4- provided they fit into your specific seat make and models requirements for height OR weight to remain rear facing. It’s best to keep them rear facing until they’ve outgrown the seat for that mode. Children’s vertebrae are not fused until around the age of four, so even in a minor accident that could simply cause an adult whiplash, it could potentially kill a child that’s had their seat turned too early.
- Moving on to the next “stage” of seat too soon. This rule doesn’t apply so much to changing an infant into a convertible, rear facing seat, as most convertible (able to rear and forward face) seats can often now be used for infants as small as 5 lbs-but more so to care givers choosing to move a child into a high-back booster, backless booster, belt positioning booster, or simply no booster seat at all way before the child truly needs to. Like the forward/rear facing issue, it’s best to let the child stay in their harnessed seat until they’ve truly outgrown the height OR weight limits on that particular seat.
- Using the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers system for children) wrong. Any car made in 2002 or later has this system in it. It was designed to make proper installation of car seats easier. It’s never to be used in combination with a seat belt, and most vehicles don’t come with a LATCH system for the centre seat. Always check your manual for your vehicle to make sure you’re using LATCH correctly. It can be just as safe as a proper seat belt installation.
- Using accessories that didn’t come with the seat. This happens a lot-and generally with no harm done-but in all technicalities-if it didn’t come with the seat, it shouldn’t be on or in the seat. So, all those cute, dangly toys? Keep them for the stroller. The Bundle Me pouches? Use a blanket instead. The reason for this being that these add one weren’t crash tested when they were testing the safety of your car seat-so safety when using them can’t be always guaranteed. Plus, depending on your insurance, add ons could potentially void your agency covering the cost of a replacement seat in the event of an accident.
- Reading the manual. Yes, it may be the most boring thing you ever read. And yes, setting up and installing a car seat isn’t rocket science-but we always stress to our customers to fully read the manual that comes with your seat. In doing so, it allows you to verify the seat is being used and installed properly. A lot of manufacturers now offer free tutorial videos online, which we often recommend as well, as they can be easier for you to follow.
- Buckling a child in who’s wearing thick winter clothing. This is tough, especially living in Canada-but the results can be dangerous. I’ve tested it myself. I buckled Little in wearing his snow suit and the harness adjusted to fit it’s bulk, and then buckled him in wearing a thin fleece, and the amount of slack left in the harness when he was wearing thinner clothing vs the thicker was enough for me to easily get my shoulders through. You’re buckling your child, not their clothing, in for the ride. In the event of an accident the child could potentially slip right out of the seat belt if it’s too loose. Try putting a coat on backward once they’re buckled in, wear thin fleece, or try a “car seat poncho” or blankets.
- Positioning the chest clip incorrectly. This clip should sit exactly where its name says, on the child’s chest at armpit level. Too often you see it down by their bellies, which could potentially cause internal bleeding in an accident, or not even clipped at all-which isn’t allowing their seat belt to do its job if a crash were to occur.
- Having the harness straps at the wrong height. When a child is rear facing, the straps should come from below or at their shoulders, never above. Don’t move them up until the child’s shoulders are level with the next slot. And when the child is forward facing, the straps should come from at, or above the child’s shoulders, never below.
- Leaving straps too loose or twisted. This coincides somewhat with the bulky clothing mentioned in #6. If the straps are too loose, the child isn’t being restrained properly if a crash were to happen. Try and pinch the shoulder strap horizontally-if you can’t, then the belt is as snug as it should be. If you can, it’s too loose. Having twists in the strap will not allow you to adjust it properly and can also impair the belt from doing its job in an accident.
- Installing the seat too loosely. No matter what type of installation you used, seat belt or LATCH, the seat should not move more then a inch side to side.
Always follow the guidelines for your seat laid out for you in the manual. Remember that it’s height OR weight, not both, before choosing a new seat or turning a seat forward (try to take the seat to its max height/weight restrictions instead of rushing it). And try your best to avoid buying a seat second hand unless you know who’s it’s coming from and you can fully trust the seat has never been compromised in an accident or otherwise.
Safe travels! 😊