Did you know that three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly? Many parents or caregivers unknowingly make simple car seat mistakes every day, including improper use of a child safety seat or not using a child safety seat at all.
In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 18-24), safety advocate AAA is revealing five common car seat mistakes:
- Turning too soon: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids remain rear-facing to at least 2 years old and should continue to rear-face until they outgrow their seat. Rear-facing provides more support to the child’s head, neck and spine during impact and is more than 500 percent safer than forward-facing seats for children under 2.
- Gadgetry: If it didn’t come with the seat (or wasn’t purchased from the manufacturer to use with the seat), it wasn’t crash-tested with the seat. Therefore, it is not guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, head supports, mirrors and toys.
- Not replacing seats after a crash or using one without knowing its history: Check your manual to see if the seat should be replaced even after a minor fender-bender. Also, never buy a used car seat, and never accept a free used one unless you are sure that it has never been in a crash. Even if it looks OK, it may be damaged in ways that aren’t visible. It is safer to buy an affordable, new seat than a name-brand, high-end used seat. All child restraints pass the same pass/fail crash tests, regardless of price point.
- Transitioning too soon: When children in Arizona turn 5, and after they grow out of their forward facing seat, they can transition to a booster seat. Arizona requires children to remain in a booster seat until age 8 or until the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Children should remain in a booster seat until a seat belt fits them properly (lap belt should rest snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest, not cross the neck or face).
- Installing the seat too loosely: Whether you install using LATCH anchors or the seat belt, a child safety seat needs to be tightly secured to the vehicle seat. A tightly installed car seat should move less than one inch side to side at the belt path whether you install using latch or the seatbelt. Also, once the child is secure in the seat, you shouldn’t be able to pinch any extra fabric on the harness straps and the chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.
Last year, AAA Arizona certified car seat technicians checked more than 300 car seats in the Phoenix area. Almost all of these seats had at least one major misuse that compromised the child’s safety.
AAA recommends soon-to-be parents schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician at least four to six weeks before their child’s due date to learn how to install your child’s safety seat and feel comfortable knowing your baby is riding safely. An infant seat is required to leave the hospital, however, hospitals do not typically perform seat checks.
As a safety advocate, AAA Arizona employs bilingual certified car seat technicians in Phoenix and Tucson to help install and inspect car seats. Visit AAA.com/childsafety to learn more.