As a parent, it’s your job to keep your child safe. One of the easiest moves you can make to increase your child’s safety is to buy and use a car seat. After all, you may drive frequently and need to take your child with you.
Unfortunately, many first-time (and even seasoned) parents make mistakes when it comes to car seats that can significantly reduce their efficacy. So here are the top seven car seat mistakes to avoid:
- Getting a used car seat without doing your research
It’s no secret that car seats can be expensive. While cheaper models can cost around $100, some cost upwards of $400.
Consequently, many parents opt to buy car seats secondhand. While this can be a good option, you need to make sure you do your research before buying a used car seat. Don’t buy one that has expired, been recalled, been damaged, been in a crash, or doesn’t have instructions. If you do, the car seat may be more of a safety hazard than a piece of safety equipment
- Putting the car seat in the wrong spot
Once you have a car seat, you must put in the right spot in your car. Across the board, the backseat is the safest because it’s away from active airbags. You don’t want your child to be seated near airbags because they can seriously injure (or even kill) a child in an accident.
The best place for a car seat is the center seat of the backseat. This provides the most protection (though the side seats of a backseat are acceptable, too, if the middle seat isn’t an option).
- Installing the car seat or buckling the child the wrong way
Before installing a car seat, make sure you have it facing the right way and that you read the car seat manufacturer instructions. The car seat should be tightly secured. If you can move the seat more than one inch in any direction, it needs to be tightened. A loose car seat in an accident could cause the child to hit the back of the front seat and get seriously injured.
In addition, make sure to buckle the harness straps across your child’s chest the right way. It should be a snug fit. A loose harness could cause the child to come out of the car seat in an accident and face serious injury.
- Reclining your child at the wrong angle
The angle at which your child is reclined in their car seat matters. The wrong angle could cause the child’s head to flop forward, making it hard for them to breathe. Babies have very narrow air ways and can’t reliably hold up their head for the first few months of their life.
Fortunately, most car seats can be adjusted to recline. Then as the child grows older, you can adjust the angle to be more upright.
- Not removing your child’s heavy outer clothes
Another common mistake that some parents make is buckling their child into the car seat while they wear heavy outer layers (e.g. in the winter). However, this can prevent the harness from fitting snuggly, defeating its purpose. Instead, buckle the harness around your child without heavy layers and then place their coat or blanket on top afterward.
- Moving to a forward-facing car seat position too soon
Many parents want to see their children in the rearview mirror and, consequently, choose to rotate the car seat forward prematurely. However, this can have deadly consequences. Infants have fragile heads and necks that are relatively large compared to the rest of their body. By facing them backward, you protect their neck and head. The switch to facing forward is intended only for children who are old enough that their necks are stronger and they can no longer fit in the rear-facing position.
Follow the car seat instructions and only switch the car seat to the forward-facing position when the child reaches the appropriate height or weight limit.
- Moving to a booster seat or seat belt too soon
One last mistake that many parents make is switching their child to a booster seat or a seat belt too soon. Again, you must wait until the child surpasses the required height or weight limit. This may vary by state, but generally, children can move on to a booster seat between ages 5 and 9. They can graduate from a booster seat to wearing just a seat belt whenever it fits properly. If you transition them before that, you put them at more risk in an accident.
Car seats are essential to protecting your child in the car. But they’re only effective if you use them right. So avoid the mistakes listed above, and in the unfortunate event that you do find your child in an accident, consult a reputable car accident attorney like LawHancock.com. They can help you and your child get the compensation you deserve.