Car Seat Safety: Avoid These 7 Common Mistakes
A car seat is probably THE most essential item you need for child passenger safety. As necessary as it is, you'd think that it'd be easy to install and use, right? But you'd be surprised just how many parents make the same, easily preventable mistakes when it comes to car safety.
Don't know where to start? Don't worry, here at Taxi Baby, we've got your back with car seats! Here are the 7 most common mistakes parents make when it comes to car seat safety—and how you can fix them today.
Mistake #1: Placing the seat in the front seat instead of the back seat
If you're thinking of putting your child's seat in the front seat, then think twice. This will put them right in front of active air bags and, if the airbag inflates, it will hit whatever is in front of it with overwhelming force. This is especially dangerous if your child is in a rear-facing car seat, as the airbag will hit the back of the rear-facing seat, which is right where your child's head is. This will cause your child’s seat to lurch forward, likely causing a serious or fatal head injury. A child in a forward-facing seat could be harmed by an airbag as well, so it's best to keep your child in the back seat until they’re at least 13 years of age.
The only exceptions for this rule is if your family owns a vehicle where the front airbag can be deactivated using the ignition key (don’t rely on sensors to deactivate the airbag). If this is the case, then you'll need to deactivate the front passenger air bags and be absolutely sure it’s turned off before installing your child’s car seat in the front passenger seat.
A final tip regarding car seat placement: when placing your child's seat in the back seat, install it in the centre of the back seat rather than next to the door. Despite common misconception, the centre seat in the second row is actually the safest seat in the whole vehicle, so long as the seat belt is compatible with your child’s car seat (note: if it’s a lap-only seat belt, then it may not be compatible). This will reduce the risk of injury during the crash, as the child is further away from the point of impact.
Mistake #2: Buying used car seats
Buying a used car seat might save you a significant amount of money, but you have to be absolutely sure of a couple of factors before you buy a used car seat. It's easy to assume that a used car seat should be fine to use, but for the safety of your child, you make sure of the following factors first:
- The car seat comes with an instruction manual or installation guide
- The car seat shows its manufacture date and the model number
- The car seat hasn't been recalled
- The car seat isn't past its expiry date or isn't more than 6 years old
- The car seat has no visible damage or any missing parts
- The car seat has never been in a car crash
If you don't know the car seat's history and can't confirm any of the details above, then do not buy the car seat! Even if you ask the seller to confirm all the points above, they’re in a conflicting position, as telling you the true history may jeopardise their chance of making the sale. A faulty car seat can be harmful to your child's safety while travelling. Not to mention, even if the used car seat is still in good condition, it will be closer to its expiry date than a new car seat. This means that it'll have less years of use for your child than if you had bought a brand new car seat. You want to get a seat that you can use for as long as possible. In most cases, it's usually more beneficial and money-saving in the long run if you purchase a new one instead.
Mistake #3: Reclining your child at the wrong angle
Not only does the seat location matter, the angle of the seat matters as well. This is predominantly relevant for rear-facing car seats, but many forward-facing seats have different recline options nowadays, so you'll need to recline the seat according to the manufacturer's instructions. Small children need to ride semi-reclined, to keep their airways open and to keep the weight off their fragile necks by preventing their heads from flopping forward. Your car seat might come with angle indicators or adjusters to help guide you but, if not, consult the car seat manual for details. Remember that you might need to change the angle of the seat as your kid continues to grow.
Mistake #4: Not installing the seat correctly
Do your homework before installing the car seat and, if in doubt, get it checked by a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (like us!)! This means reading both the manufacturer's instructions and your vehicle owner's manual for information on car seats. You want to make sure the seat is VERY tightly secured. There should be no more than an inch of movement from side to side or front to back when you grab the seat from the bottom.
You'll also need to pay special attention to how you use the harness. The harness straps should go over your child's shoulders. Rear-facing car seats should have the straps coming from a slot that is in line or lower than your child’s shoulders. Forward-facing car seats should have the straps coming from a slot that is in line or taller than your child’s shoulders. If you are using a US car seat, the chest clip should be parallel to your child's armpits. Both the strap and the clip should lie flat on their chest and go over their hips snugly. Make sure the straps are snug as a hug and expect your child to cry and resist their car seat - they will likely behave like it’s uncomfortable and too tight even though it’s not.
Mistake #5: Moving to a forward-facing car seat too soon
Though it might be tempting to place your child in the forward-facing position, especially when they hit a certain age, it's not a milestone to rush! While it may be daunting as a parent to not be able to see your child while you're driving, you'll be glad to know that the rear-facing position guarantees the most safety for your child.
In fact, riding rear-facing for as long as possible is highly recommended by child passenger safety experts. As long as your child has not yet reached the highest weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer, your child can continue to ride rear-facing.
You can even extend your child's time riding rear-facing by buying a convertible seat (also known as an extended rear-facing seat), as a convertible seat has a higher weight and height limit for riding rear-facing than an infant-only seat. Once your child reaches the weight or height limit of the convertible seat in its rear-facing position, then you can make the switch and start letting him or her ride in a forward-facing car seat.
Mistake #6: Moving to a Booster Seat Too Soon
You know how you don't need to rush having your child sit forward-facing too soon? The same applies with booster seats. Your child is safest remaining in car seats with a harness for as long as possible, so don't be quick to have your children in booster seats so soon, no matter what age they are. While the minimum age to move a child into a booster seat is 4 years old, it’s best if you can wait until they’re at least 6 years of age before making the transition.
You can switch from a car seat to a booster seat once your child has gone over the highest weight requirement of a forward-facing seat. This is usually somewhere between 18 to 25 kg depending on the car seat manufacturer.
Mistake #7: Incorrectly using a booster seat
Older children will need this type of seat to make the adult seat belt fit correctly. How do you know if the seat belt fits correctly when using a booster seat? Make sure the lap belt lies low across your child's hips or upper thigh bones, while the shoulder belt should cross the middle of your child's chest and shoulder. Always use the seat with BOTH the lap and shoulder belt—never just the lap belt. Like with the harness straps, the seatbelt should be snug and not slack.
Are you aware that using seatbelt extenders may cause harm to your child? Find out more about the dangers of seatbelt extenders.
Keep Family Travel Stress-Free
If you're in the market for car seats for your children, or if you simply want to know more about child passenger safety, then contact us! We put your child's safety as our top priority. Our team would be happy to help with whatever you and your child need to keep family travel convenient and stress-free.