It is said that about three out of four car seats are being used incorrectly, but in reality, that is likely a low estimate. I have also seen figures that say 80-95% of them are being used incorrectly which is a huge number. Huge! Your child's car seat is a device used to keep your child from being injured or killed in an accident so it's incredibly important that you have it installed and are using it correctly. While looking for a photo for this post, I rejected over 90% of them because, as the statistics show, they were not being used correctly in the photo. That's scary, guys.
In this day and age when information is readily available at the touch of a finger, these mistakes shouldn't still be happening as frequently as they do, yet I see defensive parents every day in forums and comment sections where they refuse to listen to reason or defend a celebrity who is using their seat incorrectly as a "parental choice". This isn't about attacking a parent's rights or abilities, it's about keeping your child safe. When we know better, we do better.
There are a lot of car seat mistakes being made, but in my personal experience, these four seem to happen over and over and over again.
Are YOU making any of these car seat mistakes?
Forward facing too early
We live in a society that thrives on milestones, but this is one milestone that you don't want to reach too soon. Your child is far safer rear facing for as long as your seat will allow, but age two should be the bare minimum. If you are worried about your child's legs being cramped, remember that a broken leg is far preferable to a broken neck.
For further information on extended rear facing and why you should practice it, check out these great articles:
- Why Rear Facing: the Science Junkie’s Guide
- 5 Times Safer
- Why Rear-Facing is Safest
- Toddler's Head Reattached After Internal Decapitation
Using puffy coats or snowsuits
Now that winter is approaching, this is so important. During impact, the puffy clothing could compress and your child could be ejected from the seat. It is far better for your child to be a little chilly while the car warms up than to be ejected in an accident.
Instead, put your child in a lightweight fleece and bring their heavy coat and a blanket in the car on especially cold days. Not only is it safer, your child will likely be more comfortable. If it's really cold you can cover them with the blanket or turn their coat backwards and put it on over the car seat harness. This way, you also have the coat for walking to and from the car.
Chest clip too low
Far too often I see children in car seats with the chest clip closer to their belly. It is a chest clip, not a belly clip. In our house, we call it a nipple clip since that is where the clip should be located, even with your child's armpits.
Loose harness straps
Loose harness straps can cause your child to potentially be ejected from their car seat. It is imperative that their harness straps are tight, but not so tight that your child is uncomfortable. Pull the harness so that it is snug on your child's hips, then pull the harness adjustment strap to tighten it on their shoulders. Perform the pinch test to be sure that it is tight enough. This will ensure that your child is as safe as possible in the event of a crash.
Remember: we never get in our cars expecting to be in a car accident so we sometimes might relax a little. "I'm just running to the store, it'll be fine", except that most car accidents happen within ten miles of home. This is why you should buckle your child in as if you might get t-boned every single time you get in the car.
Photo credit: larkin.family via flickr.com