Think your child’s car seat is installed correctly? Chances are, it’s not. According to safety professionals at Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness, nearly 4 out of 5 car seats they check are used incorrectly.
“Not all of the errors are what most people would consider huge,” said Sharon Rengers, R.N., manager with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “But one big error or combined errors can lead to an injury if the vehicle is involved in a crash.”
Kentucky and Indiana state laws require children less than 8 years old to be in a child restraint or booster per manufacturer’s instructions. In Indiana, children from 8 to 16 years must use a seat belt. In Kentucky, everyone over 57 inches tall must use a seat belt.
In recognition of National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 15 to 21, here are the top 10 common car seat mistakes:
Have a safety professional check your car seat
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness is offering free car seat checks weekly around Louisville. An appointment is required –– call to reserve a spot!
- Child not in a booster seat. A regular lap/shoulder belt is designed to fit a child who is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Until then, the child needs to be in a booster seat.
- Toddler/infant in wrong seat. All seats have different weight and height recommendations. Many times, parents put the child in a seat the child has outgrown.
- Seat is too loose. When installed properly, the car seat should not move more than 1 inch forward or side to side.
- Using aftermarket products. Addingproducts that support a baby’s head, get placed under a baby or are placed in the seat — that didn’t come with the seat orwere not tested for safety — may interfere with proper seat performance in the event of a crash. It’s always best to avoid using these products.
- Harness straps are coming out of the wrong seat slots. For infants, the straps need to come through the slots that are just below the level of the baby’s shoulders. For forward-facing convertible seats for toddlers, the straps should come through the uppermost slots.
- Child is turned forward-facing too early. Children should face the rear of the vehicle until they reach the upper weight limit of their rear-facing seat. Many times, parents turn the seat toward the front when the child reaches 20 pounds. There is a lot of force put on the baby’s head/neck forward facing in the event of a crash. Look at the weight limits of your convertible seats and use rear-facing to the maximum weight limit, even if your child is over age 2.
- Harness straps are too loose. The harness should be snug — you should not be able to pinch any of the webbing between your fingers.
- Retainer clip is too low. The retainer clip that holds both shoulder straps together against the child’s chest should be level with the child’s armpits.
- Using a seat that is too small. Once a child has reached the upper weight limits of an infant seat, or once the child has grown so tall that there is less than a hand’s width distance between the child’s head and the top of the seat, it is time to move into a convertible seat that is placed rear-facing.
- Using LATCH incorrectly. Many times, parents place a seat in the middle of the back seat and use the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) attachments located on the sides of the vehicle. The seat should be used only in locations specified by the car manufacturer. And when LATCH is used, there is no need to use the seat belts also. Instead, buckle the seat belt, lock it tight and then place the car seat into position. Once a child reaches a combined weight with the car seat of 65 pounds, do not use the lower anchors; only use the seat belt with the tether — in the back seat. Many studies have been done with air bags, and it was determined there is no benefit to children less than 13 years old –– it’s recommended children be at least 13 years old before sitting in front seat.