Car seat safety is essential for keeping your child safe while on the road. Using a car seat reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 71 to 82%, compared to using a seat belt alone. However, to maximize the protection car seats provide, it is crucial to make sure you are using them correctly. To ensure safe travels for your precious cargo, consider the following car seat safety tips and guidelines from Abra Health.
Top 5 Common Car Seat Mistakes
Unfortunately, common car seat mistakes may render even the best car seats ineffective. To help you identify any loose ends, here are some of the most common car seat safety blunders to avoid:
1. Using the Wrong Type of Car Seat
Using the wrong type of car seat for your child’s age and size is a common mistake that parents make. Infants and young children should be placed in rear-facing car seats until they reach the seat’s maximum height and weight limit. Rear-facing seats are the safest option for young children as they provide the best protection for the head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.
Once they outgrow the rear-facing seat, children should be placed in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height and weight limit for that seat. After outgrowing the forward-facing seat, children should use a booster seat until they are tall enough to use a seat belt safely, usually when they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 and 12 years old.
2. Installing the Car Seat Incorrectly
Incorrectly installing the car seat is a common mistake that may be dangerous for your child. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and to use either the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH system to secure the seat. Make sure the seat is tightened securely and leveled. You can ensure the seat is secure by wiggling it side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than one inch in any direction, it is not secure and needs to be re-tightened.
By taking the time to properly install the car seat, you may ensure your child is well-protected while riding in the car. If you are unsure how to install the seat correctly, you can always ask for help from a certified child passenger safety technician or take a class to increase your knowledge.
3. Not Keeping Your Child in a Car Seat Long Enough
Regarding car seat safety, it is essential to keep your child in a car seat or booster seat until they outgrow it. Car seats should be used until your child reaches the seat’s maximum height and weight limit. If your child uses a seat belt before they reach the limit, they may not be adequately protected in the event of a crash. Most children between the age of 8 to 12 will start to fit properly in a seat belt without a booster, but every child is different.
4. Not Replacing Car Seats After an Accident
It is necessary to replace car seats after an accident, even if the seat appears undamaged. In a car accident, the force of the impact may cause structural damage to the car seat that is not visible to the naked eye. Using a damaged car seat may put your child at risk in the event of another accident. It is always best to err on the side of caution and replace the car seat to promote optimal car seat safety.
5. Not Adjusting Car Seat Straps Properly
It is important to adjust the car seat straps correctly, so they fit snugly around your child. Car seat straps should be placed at or below your child’s shoulders for rear-facing seats and at or above their shoulders for forward-facing seats. The straps should be snug enough to pass the pinch test. To test the tightness of the straps, pinch the webbing between your fingers. If you can pinch any excess material, it’s likely too loose.
4 Tips to Ensure Car Seat Safety for Your Child
Now that you know the most common car seat mistakes to avoid, you can take steps to ensure car seat safety for your child. The following tips may help you and your family stay safe while riding in the car:
1. Set a Good Example and Always Wear Your Seat Belt
Some children may be apprehensive about car seats and seat belts, especially if they don’t see family members wearing seat belts. It’s important to follow the law and set a good example by using seat belts every time you get in the car. This will help your child understand that seat belts are a vital part of staying safe on the road.
2. Never Leave Your Child Unattended in a Car Seat
Leaving a child unattended in a car seat, even for a few minutes, can be extremely dangerous. Children should always be supervised when in a car seat, as they may be able to loosen straps or wriggle out of the seat if left alone. In addition, leaving a child alone in a car may pose a risk of injury or death due to heat stroke, particularly during hot weather. It is imperative to always keep an eye on your child when they are in a car seat and to never leave them alone in a vehicle.
3. Use the Center Seat if Possible
If your vehicle has a center seat in the back row, it is generally considered the safest spot to place a car seat. The center seat usually has the most stable base and is less likely to be affected by a collision. Moreover, the center seat is also farther away from the doors, which may provide additional protection in a side-impact collision. If your car does not have a center seat, or if the center seat is not compatible with your car seat, the next safest option is to place the car seat in the back seat on either side. It is always important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing and using your car seat to ensure your child’s safety.
4. Be Mindful of Distractions When Driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents. Over 3,000 people were killed by distracted driving in 2020. Therefore, it is crucial to remain focused on the road when driving, as even the slightest distraction may be dangerous. Texting, eating, tending to other passengers, and adjusting the radio are all activities that can take away your focus from the road. If you need to attend to your child or adjust their car seat while driving, it is best to pull over in a safe place and take care of it before continuing your journey.
Maximize Your Child’s Well-being with Abra Health
At Abra Health, we understand parents want the best for their children. That’s why we are dedicated to helping families promote healthy habits for their little ones. Request an appointment today to learn more about how Abra Health can help maximize your child’s well-being.