Babies need to be in car seats. Basic information for parents, right? But did you know that 72 percent of people don’t use car seats correctly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Proper car seat safety requires more than buckling your precious cargo into a car seat. Check out these common car seat mistakes to avoid so that your little one is always protected.
Old Car Seat
Avoid using hand-me-down car seats. Car seats actually have expiration dates — usually about six years after they were manufactured. Past the expiration date, the plastic starts to slowly decompose, and the car seat will under-perform in a crash. Also, you never know if a used car seat was involved in a previous crash, which makes it no longer effective.
Your baby is fragile, so you may naturally want to loosen the straps. If the straps are not properly tightened, not only will your child be able to wiggle free from them, but the little one will also be jerked around upon impact. State Farm car insurance advises that you should use the pinch test to ensure that the straps are tight enough. Try to pinch the straps at the top of your baby’s shoulders. If straps fold at all, they’re too loose.
Chest Clip Too Low
You must pay attention to the placement of the chest clip. The clip should be even with your baby’s armpits. This level may look too high at first, but that is where your little one’s rib cage provides the most support. A placement that’s any lower, and you risk the clip penetrating your baby’s stomach in an accident.
Wearing a Coat
Car seat straps are designed to hold your baby snugly against the protective barrier and minimize any movement. If you put your baby in a coat and then buckle the straps over the thick garment, you may think your little one is snug. During an accident though, the pressure will quickly compress the filling in the coat and leave too much room for your baby to move around. Buckle your baby in the car seat first, and then wrap a blanket over the straps.
Premature Forward-Facing Positioning
At the one-year mark, parents used to celebrate by switching their little ones to the forward-facing position in their car seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds parents that times have changed. Research shows that children’s small bodies are less likely to suffer whiplash if they face backwards. Parents should keep their children rear facing for as long as possible, typically between ages 1 and 3 — or until they reach the maximum weight and height restrictions required by the car seat’s manufacturer.