We all want nothing but the safety of our children, right? Well, did you know there are several car seat mistakes parents make that could be avoided? Today, Angela, a guest writer, is sharing with us 5 of the most common car seat mistakes to avoid.
Author bio: Angela is a Michigan-based writer who spends her time working with a wide range of companies in the Metro Detroit area, such as The Law Offices of Goodwin & Scieszka. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing and being a very amateur gardener.
Driving always comes with some risks, even if you’re only going a short distance along a route you’ve driven many times before. You just never know when someone else might be driving recklessly or when another driver might make a mistake.
Nobody ever leaves the house expecting to end up in a car accident, but that’s exactly what happens to millions of people every year. Very often, these car accidents are nothing more than minor fender-benders that are hugely inconvenient, but at least result in nothing more than cosmetic damage. But in many cases, car accidents are a much bigger deal, causing very serious injuries or even death.
This one time, as I was doing my research on car seats and trying to figure out the best car seat for our son, I read an article about the statistics of children being killed in car accidents and the mais thing I remember is that most of the parents of these children said something along these lines:
It was just a short drive, we were just going around the corner. I never thought a car accident would happen.
But it did… It doesn’t matter how close or far we drive, we always have to make sure our children are safe and properly using their car seat features.
Even with all the advances that have been made with car safety over the last few decades, car accidents are still a leading cause of death among children in the United States.
According to the CDC, 675 children 12 years old and younger were killed in car accidents in 2017 and 116,000 were injured. Given those statistics, it’s only natural to want to make sure your children will be protected as well as they possibly can be if you happen to get into a car crash.
Whether you’re an adult or an infant, one of the best ways to be protected during a car accident is to be buckled up. But for young children, being safely buckled up is a lot more complicated than it is for adults.
The NHTSA estimates that car seats and booster seats can reduce the risk of fatal injuries during a car accident by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers, but for them to be the most effective, they need to be used correctly and studies have found that car seat mistakes are extremely common.
Let’s look at the 5 car seat mistakes to avoid
Placement of Car Seat
Placement is very important when it comes to car seats so that the child won’t be injured by airbags if they go off. Back seats, ideally in the center, are the safest place for children to be because front airbags are better suited to protect adult passengers and teenagers and can be very dangerous for young children.
Rear center seats keep children the furthest away from airbags if they deploy. If a rear-facing car seat were placed in the front passenger seat and the airbag opened, the airbag would be right in line with the back of the child’s head and could potentially cause very serious injuries because of the strong force the airbags deploy at.
If a vehicle doesn’t have a back seat, such as a pickup truck, the safest option for the child is to deactivate the front airbags so they won’t go off during a crash.
Remember that airbags have been known to deploy even in low-speed collisions, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s unlikely that you’ll need to worry about the airbags.
Adjusting the Harness
Car seat harnesses play a vital role in protecting your child during a crash, so it’s very important to make sure it’s adjusted just right. If the harness isn’t adjusted correctly, there’s a chance the child could be ejected from their seat during a crash or they might not be protected as well as they should be.
To make sure the harness straps are positioned correctly, the chest clip should be placed in line with a child’s armpits. If the chest clip is too low, the force of the impact will be directed toward the child’s stomach and if it’s placed too high, it could cause injury to a child’s delicate throat and neck area.
Be sure that the straps lie flat against the body and aren’t twisted up since twisted straps can affect the way forces from a crash are distributed.
When properly adjusted, the harness should fit snugly without being too tight. Once the harness is secured, be sure to give it the pinch test. If you pinch the strap by your child’s shoulder and are able to grab excess material with your fingers, the harness is too loose.
Also, check that the harness fits evenly on each side. This helps make sure that any forces from the crash are distributed evenly to the strongest parts of your child’s body and makes it less likely that an injury will occur on one side of the body.
Don’t forget that adjusting a harness isn’t the kind of thing you can just do once and leave it. This is a very common mistake, but kids grow and change so fast and it’s important to regularly check and make sure the harness is still properly doing its job.
Leaving Thick Coats On
No parent wants their child to be cold, but at the same time, thick, puffy coats can interfere with a car seat’s ability to protect a child. If you adjust the straps of a car seat over a puffy coat and it seems to fit correctly, that fit can be deceiving.
During a car accident, the filling material of a coat can become compressed and create a gap between the straps and the child and that gap can make a big difference in how well protected your child is. In some cases, the extra slack can be large enough for a child to come out of the seat during a car accident.
Instead of having your child wear a thick coat while in their car seat, try dressing them in thin layers that fit close to their body or having them wear a coat made of a thinner material, like fleece.
Many safety experts recommend that children wear nothing thicker than a sweatshirt while sitting in a car seat. For extra warmth, a blanket or coat can be placed over the child once they’re secured in their car seat to avoid interfering with the fit of the straps.
Consider a Car Seat Inspection
Since car seat installation mistakes are so common, it’s a good idea to take advantage of a local car seat inspection service to make sure everything is all set. Even if you’ve installed car seats before and you think you’ve got it down, these inspections are free so there’s no harm in getting a second opinion.
During a car seat inspection, a certified technician will take a look at your seat to make sure it’s installed correctly or teach you how to install it correctly.
Most commonly, these inspection locations can be found at places like hospitals, fire departments, insurance company offices, and other public safety offices. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some inspection stations have started offering virtual appointments.
Visit the NHTSA website to find a seat inspection station near you.
Register Your Car Seat
One thing many parents forget to do is register their car seat. Having young kids means your hands are full, so registering a car seat is something that can very easily fall to the very bottom of your list of priorities. But you might be surprised just how common it is for child car seats to be recalled over safety defects.
Some product recalls get lots of media attention, but that’s not always the case and registering your car seats means manufacturers will have an easy time contacting you if your seat is recalled.
If your car seat is recalled, the next steps will depend on the nature of the defect. Very often, the manufacturer will be able to send you a kit with instructions about how to repair the seat so that it performs as it’s supposed to.
But if a car seat can’t be safely repaired, you may be contacted with information about how to return your seat and obtain a new one.
We truly hope that this post is helpful to you and your family as you seek to keep your children safe while driving.
If there are any tips or safety precautions you remember and want to share with us, please go ahead and let us know in the comments.
And if you find this post helpful, please share it with other parents or pin it so other people can benefit from this information.