Common Car Seat Installation and Daily Use Mistakes Made by Parents

Child safety when placed in a car seat is a major concern for the US Department of Transportation (DOT), so much so that DOT Secretary Ray LaHood recently joined National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland and Safe Kids President and CEO Kate Carr for the kick-off of Child Passenger Safety Week. During their meeting, they discussed five significant mistakes that parents make when installing and using car seats and booster seats.

Parents should keep themselves more informed about this topic as the child seat you choose may not be compatible with your car. There are several things that can influence this, including seat shapes and seat belts. When choosing a baby car seat, it is crucial to make sure it is suitable for your vehicle and that it complies with all state laws. You should be able to get advice on whether a child seat can be installed in the car from the retailer where you purchased it.

According to Ray LaHood:

“The key to keeping kids safe is to make sure your child is in the right seat for their age and size – and to make sure that the seat is correctly installed in your vehicle. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the many resources available to ensure you’ve done everything to properly protect your child.”

Here are the five biggest child seat installation mistakes made by parents:

  1. Wrong harness slot used: The harness straps used to hold the child in the car seat were positioned either too low or too high.
  2. Harness chest clip positioned over the abdomen rather than the chest or not used at all.
  3. Loose car seat installation: The restraint system moved more than two inches side-to-side or front to back; anything more than one inch is too much.
  4. Seat belt placement was wrong: Lap belt resting over the stomach and/or shoulder belt on the child’s neck or face.
  5. Loose harness: More than two inches of total slack between the child and the harness strap; there should be no slack.

If you are about to learn how to install a child safety seat for the first time, Safe Kids and the NHTSA have created the Safe Kids downloadable checklist:

  • Right Seat. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height.
  • Right Place. Kids are VIPs, just ask them. We know all VIPs ride in the back seat, so keep all children in the back seat until they are 13. Doing this, along with correctly using the appropriate child restraints, greatly reduces the risk of injury.
  • Right Direction. You want to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. When he or she outgrows the seat, move your child to a forward-facing car seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors. In case the belt doesn’t seem to fit, consider getting a Seat Belt Replacement.
  • Inch Test. Once your car seat is installed, give it a good shake at the base. Can you move it more than an inch side to side or front to back? A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
  • Pinch Test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

Remember that a properly installed child safety seat can potentially save your child’s life, and always be thorough in the installation of the car seat.

In some cases, local police and fire departments offer car seat installation safety checks and, in some cases, installation assistance.

Here is a nice graphic provided by Britax that showcases one very helpful and important tip when securing your child in a car seat:

Is Your Harness Snug Enough?


U.S. DOT and Safe Kids kick off child passenger safety week with new survey on common car seat mistakes:

Image Credits

Is Your Harness Snug Enough?:

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