Eager to find the safest car seat for their babies and toddlers, parents research and ask questions. It’s an important decision. The child’s safety is the No. 1 priority. What is even more critical is what they do when they get home with that perfect car seat. Properly installing the car seat and buckling the little ones in is just the first step. Highway Patrol experts say many serious injuries and deaths from car crashes could have been prevented if parents had followed all the tips car seat makers and law enforcement officers offer. The following are five of the most common mistakes that well-meaning parents make with regard to car seats.
Don’t Double Belt
It makes perfect sense to use both the seatbelt and the anchors when installing a car seat. Two fasteners must be better than one, or so the logic goes. To the surprise of many parents, however, only one or the other fastener should be used. The reason is that the car seats are only crash-tested using one or the either. No government study has been done using both.
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Harness Should Be at Chest Level
The harness of the seat belt should be adjustable. Parents need to make sure when buckling in their children that the harness is at chest or arm pit level. The chest is the safest place for that belt to be because it can take the most pressure. Buckling children any lower is dangerous because too much pressure on the abdomen during a crash could crush or seriously injure the internal organs, according to highway patrol officers. Not having a child properly secured in a car seat could also lead to them being ejected during a car crash.
Follow the Expiration Date
Car seats are only guaranteed to be safe for six years. It’s important to check the expiration of the seat, which is usually listed on the side. It is also for this reason that law enforcement officers recommend destroying the seats when they’re no longer needed, rather than donating them or giving them to another parent in need. The risk is too great that the car seat will get passed around long after the expiration date and that a crash might occur.
A parent behind the wheel always feels anxious about a child alone in the back seat, especially a baby. Many choose to put up mirrors so they can see their babies who are in rear-facing car seats. Many also hang toys to help keep the babies occupied and happy during the trip. The danger with anything hanging is that most objects, no matter how tightly secured, will come off during a crash. Something as innocuous as a set of plastic, toy keys could go flying through the air and hit the baby. It could also hit the parent and knock her unconscious.
Follow the Height Guidelines
A child that is too small or tall for a particular car seat is also a problem. The child’s head should not be less than an inch below the top of the car seat. Before installing a car seat, parents should read the manufacturer’s instructions. For peace of mind, it is also a good idea to make an appointment with a car seat inspection office to make sure the car seat and the child are secured properly. Many highway patrol officers offer such inspections.
This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at Howard Craig Kornberg.