Car seats are critical to keeping your child safe, but they're not always easy to use, and many are installed incorrectly. Sept. 23-29 is Child Passenger Safety Week — a great time to learn how to avoid these common car-seat mistakes:
Mistake No. 1
Using the seat belt or Latch system incorrectly when installing the car seat
If you're using a seat belt to install the car seat, make sure the seat belt's retractor is in the locked position, preventing the car seat from moving. If you're using the Latch system, make sure to connect the seat correctly to the Latch anchors and not some other part of the car. When in doubt, consult your vehicle's owner's manual.
Mistake No. 2
The car seat can move more than an inch after it's installed
Check your car seat by grabbing it near the belt path and giving it a tug. If it moves more than an inch in any direction, adjust it to get a tighter fit. Check this every time your kids use their car seat, as the seat can come loose over time.
Mistake No. 3
The car-seat harness doesn't fit your child properly
If your child is in a rear-facing seat, the harness shoulder straps should be at or below shoulder level; in a forward-facing seat, the straps should be at or above the shoulders, and the chest clip should always be at armpit level. Check the harness for too much slack by pinching the strap at the shoulders. If you're able to pinch the webbing, that means you need to tighten the harness until the straps are snug.
Mistake No. 4
Failing to use a forward-facing car seat's tether strap
The strap connects to the vehicle's tether anchor, reducing a child's head movement in a crash by up to 8 inches. Unfortunately, many caregivers forget to attach it since the anchor is often out of sight behind the seat.
Mistake No. 5
Moving your child out of the rear-facing position too soon
Children should remain rear-facing until they outgrow the height or weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. Children are much safer riding in a rear-facing car seat than in a forward-facing one. Older children can simply cross their legs or rest them on the seatback cushion to fit comfortably in the rear-facing position.
Car Seats can be confusing, but help is available from certified child passenger safety technicians. For more information on where to find a technician as well as car seat tips and child safety news visit Cars.com.
Editor's note: This post was updated Nov. 1, 2018, to include new information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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