3 common car seat mistakes and why they happen

Posted at 7:22 AM, Sep 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-14 10:22:02-04

If you think you're using your child’s safety seat correctly, think again. The majority of car seats – 75 percent – are installed or used incorrectly, according to safety experts.

This has been a deadly summer for Arizona child passengers. From May through August, more than 10 children were killed or seriously injured on Valley roadways. In most of these tragedies, the child was improperly restrained or not restrained at all. This is in stark contrast to last year, when 16 children were killed in Arizona car crashes the entire year.                                                        

In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 13-19), safety advocate AAA reveals three common car seat mistakes – and why parents make them:

  • Turning too soon: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids remain rear-facing to a minimum of 2 years old, regardless of height or weight, and should continue to rear-face until they outgrow the seat. Rear-facing provides more support to the child’s neck during impact and is more than 500 percent safer than forward-facing seats for children under 2.

WHY: Parents often turn their child forward-facing to coincide with their first birthday.

  • 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. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be safe and should not be used. This includes strap covers, mirrors and toys.

WHY: Parents buy gadgets to entertain their child, but it’s not worth the risk.

  • 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 and even if no child was in the seat at the time. 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 a cheap, new seat than a name-brand, high-end used seat. All seats pass the same pass/fail crash tests.
    WHY: Some parents try to save money by not buying a new car seat after a crash or don’t notice any visible damage, so they think it’s still safe.

Free safety seats and seat checks available this month
This fall, AAA Arizona is partnering with SafeKids Maricopa County to ensure children in Arizona are buckled in safely. The first event will take place at the AAA Chandler office, located at 4040 W. Ray Road, Suite 2, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 19. Bilingual child passenger safety technicians will perform car seat checks and give away free* child passenger safety seats to families in need. Additional events will be held in October and November.

As a safety advocate, AAA Arizona employs certified car seat technicians in Phoenix and Tucson to help install and inspect car seats to make sure they are being used properly. Visit to learn more.

*Children must be present in order to receive free child passenger safety seat. Limit 2 child passenger safety seats per family. Supplies limited. Recipients must go through an inspection and installation check, to ensure the child passenger safety seat has been installed correctly.