Do you have a car AND a baby on board? Investing in a high-quality car seat for your little one is a must.
No matter how responsible you are as a driver, car accidents are beyond your control. When it comes to car safety, car seats are just as essential as a standard seatbelt. They provide the best protection for your infant or toddler, whose bodies are more vulnerable to the effects of a collision.
But just because you bought the most expensive car seat out there doesn’t mean your little one is 100% safe. It’s not about the price – it’s about how well they are installed and used. The slightest oversights can instantly turn to bigger problems, and unfortunately, even the most vigilant parents commit mistakes.
Listed here are 10 common car seat mistakes you can’t afford to make and how to fix them.
1. Installing the car seat in front of the vehicle
We get it – it feels safer if your baby is seated as closely as possible to you when you’re driving. However, installing the car seat in the front does more harm than good for your little one.
Front-on impacts are common, and if your infant sits up front, they’re much closer to the nature of the collision. This increases the risk of the injury, from the force of the impact to shattered glass. Even airbags are dangerous for developing children.
Car seats, whether they’re rear-facing, front-facing, or a booster seat, should always be installed in the back of the car. Likewise, small children from 0 to 12 years old are advised to stay in the backseat.
2. Installing the seat too loosely
Leaving the straps too loose is perhaps the biggest mistake a parent can make.
Give your child’s car seat a firm shake to determine whether or not the seat is installed tightly enough. The seat shouldn’t allow for much wiggle room. You shouldn’t see more than one inch of movement from back and forth or side to side.
Check your straps too and tighten them as much as possible. If installing the seat through the anchor points isn’t getting the seat tight enough, consider installing it with a lap belt.
3. Positioning the harness and clip incorrectly
If the straps of the car seat don’t rest correctly on your child’s body, you’re depriving them of the maximum level of protection.
The rule of thumb is to keep the strap tighter, and the chest clip higher. The straps should be snug enough that you can only slide one finger underneath them. The clip should sit at about the baby’s armpit level.
4. Not taking puffy coats off your kid
Your kid’s clothing is one of the most important (yet most overlooked) factors in car seat safety. Make sure your kid isn’t wearing any bulky clothing as this may interfere with the fitting and positioning of the straps and clips.
Instead of making them wear puffy jackets underneath the straps, it would be safer to use them over the straps, wrapping your kid as a cozy blanket.
5. Switching to forward-facing seat too soon
Don’t get too excited about switching to forward-facing seat too soon. Doctors warn that it’s best to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible even if they’re past two years old. It’s not about the age limit – it’s about the weight and height limit.
Rear-facing seats offer the best protection for your infant or toddler. It has more protection than a booster seat and a standard seatbelt. Rear-facing seats cradle your baby and absorb the forces of the crash in the event of a collision. It keeps your child’s head, neck, and spine aligned should there be a severe impact.
6. Being mindless about the car seat’s expiration date
If the older sibling passing down the car seat is now a teenager, you might want to skip and buy a new one for your baby. Since the car seat materials degrade over time, most seats expire 6 years from their manufacture date. Moreover, older seats may be lacking the safety technology the newer models have to offer.
7. Using the seat again after an accident
It’s a no-brainer, yet this mistake is surprisingly common among frugal and/or misinformed parents.
If you’ve been involved in an accident, then it’s a must to buy a new car seat ASAP. These seats are designed to absorb the impact of a collision. Once they’ve done their duty, they become damaged, irreparable, and insignificant.
8. Using a second-hand, damaged car seat
Is it okay to use a second-hand car seat? Absolutely. Using a seat passed down by an older sibling, cousin or friend is a more practical choice for frugal parents – if and only IF you’re 100% sure about the seat’s history.
Make sure the car seat has never been damaged or involved in a car accident, rendering the seat unfit for safe use. Make sure it’s not expired either. You can’t afford to risk your kid’s life to cheap outdated second-hand car seats from yard sales and online swaps.
9. Using a car seat that’s incompatible with your car
You tend to be very careful when buying car seat covers, ensuring they’re compatible with your upholstery and car. The same caution should go for your child’s car seat.
If your car is manufactured after 2002, then you’re good to go – they’re required by law to have anchor points for installing child car seats. If not, make sure you buy a seat that can be installed using your vehicle’s existing seatbelts.
10. Not asking for help
Car seats, from their installation process to their life expectancy, can be very complicated. If you’re unsure how to use a car seat correctly, you can always check with an expert, from safety driving instructors and certified child passenger safety technicians to top car seat manufacturers.
Author Bio: Mina Natividad is one of the daytime writers for TuffSeat Car Seat Covers, a leading supplier of genuine accessory seat covers to the Australian car market, offering vehicle-specific covers for top brands including. Toyota, Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, Hino, Fuso, Isuzu Trucks, and more. She loves writing about automobiles, travel, and lifestyle.
Mina is a passionate blogger who’d rather write helpful and inspiring articles online than rant on social media. This free-spirited damsel has got a lot to say about food, travel, well-being, home design, and lifestyle.