According to the child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide, four out of every car seats are installed or used incorrectly. The problem is so common you might think these mistakes aren’t critical, but they can be. It is estimated that some 30,000 children are injured and almost 500 are killed in car accidents despite being in child safety seats.
How safe would your child be in a car accident? Here are 8 common mistakes you could be making:
1: The seat isn’t securely fastened to the car. When grabbing it with both hands, you shouldn’t be able to move the seat more than an inch in any direction. Be sure to attach it with the seat belt, not just shoulder belts.
2. The harness isn’t tight enough on the child. It should be snug with no slack. If you can pinch the fabric when the harness is fastened, it’s too loose.
3. Children 2 and under should be in rear-facing seats. The bones that protect the head and spinal cord aren’t yet fully developed and can be seriously injured by a blow from the front. Children should be in rear-facing seats until they exceed BOTH the age and size recommendations.
4. A rear-facing seat is too upright. To protect a small child’s small airway, rear-facing seats should be adjusted at a 45-degree angle — halfway between fully vertical and fully horizontal.
5. The harness retainer clip is in the wrong place. It needs to be across the child’s breastbone at armpit level to keep the straps from slipping off the child’s shoulders.
6. The harness is strapped through the wrong slots. In most car seats, the lower two sets of slots are for the rear-facing position, and only the top set has the extra reinforcement needed to keep the seat fastened to the car during a car accident.
7. Skipping the booster seat. If your child is between 40 and 80 pounds and around 4’9” — typical for kids 4 to 8 — he or she needs a booster seat to ensure their seat belt fits properly.
8. Using a recalled seat. Be aware of recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website safecar.gov allows you to search by manufacturer to tell if your child’s car seat has been recalled.
Source: Parents Magazine, “Car Seat Safety Check: 8 Common Mistakes You Must Avoid,” Hal Karp, Accessed Oct. 22, 2013