Top 10 Car Seat Errors
- Harness is too loose
The harness is the critical part of the car seat that prevents your child’s forward movement. When the harness is snug against the child, it decreases the risk of head and neck injury.
- Car seat not tight/using the wrong belts
The majority of car seats are not tight because the person installing was unaware of how the seat belts work with the car seat. There are two ways to secure a car seat in the vehicle. The seat belt can be used in any seating position, but it must be locked to hold the seat securely. The other option, available since 2002, is the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) method. This system is explained in your vehicle manual. The seat attaches by hooking the designated straps to a metal bar in the bottom of the seat. The strap also must be pulled tightly so the seat does not move in any direction more than an inch at the belt path. The tether is a strap with a hook on the back at the top of all forward-facing seats. In vehicles made since 2000, there is a designated anchor location.
- Chest retainer clip is not at armpit level
The plastic pieces that hold the harness straps together are pre-crash positioning devices. In a crash without the correct use of the retainer clip, the harness could slide off the shoulder. In order for the harness straps to perform adequately, the retainer clip must be in the correct position at the armpit.
- Child faces forward too soon
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride facing the rear of the car until 30 to 40 pounds in weight. Seats on the market now will allow children to ride rear-facing until they weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
- Riding in a recalled car seat
Many recalls are related to a car seat’s safety features. Always fill out the manufacturer’s card to be notified of any recalls.
- Child is too heavy for the seat
You can find the weight and height limits on the stickers on your car seat.
- Seat is too old
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association recommends that seats be discarded after six years. Many seats now are marked with an expiration date. All safety experts recommend using a seat that is less than 10 years old.
- Inappropriate padding in the car seat
There should never be any extra padding, blankets or infant head supports that go behind or under the child. Blankets can be on the sides, around the head or at the crotch, but should never interfere with the harness position.
- Using a secondhand seat
Buying a used car seat may mean not knowing the history of the seat, whether it has been in a crash, or if it is missing instructions or mandated stickers. Car seats are tested only for one car crash and should never be used after a crash.
- Unused seat belts are not buckled
If you are using your vehicle’s Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system to install a forward-facing car seat, the child may be able to reach the unused seat belt. Always remember to buckle the unused belt behind the seat before installing the seat with the anchors.