Avoid These 5 Common Child Car Seat Safety Mistakes
Child car seats play an important role in keeping children safe in the event of a car accident, but there’s no denying that they can be very confusing to use correctly. So many new parents have stories about how they struggled to install their child’s car seat and once a car seat is installed, it’s still easy to make mistakes when using it.
The NHTSA estimates that about 59% of car seats are used incorrectly. There are lots of different mistakes that can be made while using child car seats, but some mistakes seem to happen more often than others. Here are five common child car seat mistakes and how you can avoid them:
Changing to Forward Facing Too Soon
It used to recommend that children remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the age of two, but the better guideline to switch to a forward-facing seat when the child reaches the maximum height and weight capacity specified for your car seat. Since an infant’s spinal cord is still developing, a rear-facing car seat helps better absorb the force of a car crash and distribute the impact to stronger parts of the child’s body. An infant’s head accounts for about 25% of its overall body weight and if they’re placed in a forward-facing car seat too soon, the force of a car accident leave them vulnerable to injuries to the neck and spine.
Not Buckling In Correctly
Once a car seat has been installed, getting the harness adjusted just right can be the next big challenge. When adjusted correctly, the chest clip of the harness should be level with the child’s underarm area. If the chest clip is too low, the child might come out of the seat during an accident or the clip could cause injuries to the child’s abdomen.
During the winter months, it’s important to be careful that your child’s clothing doesn’t interfere with the straps of their car seat. Things like puffy coats can make it difficult to tighten the straps of a car seat correctly and in the event of a car accident, there can be too much slack in the harness to adequately protect the child. Instead of having your child wear their coat while in the car seat, try placing the coat over them like a blanket. A good guideline for making sure a harness is tight enough is to pinch the straps of the harness with your fingers. If it’s tightened enough, there won’t be any slack fabric to pinch.
Not Registering Your Car Seat
When you purchase a car seat, one of the best things you can do is make sure you register it with the manufacturer. Product recalls involving child car seats are very common and it’s not at all unusual for people to own a recalled product without even realizing it. Not all product recalls receive the extensive media coverage that things like the Takata airbag recall or the GM ignition switch recall did. But if you register your car seat, the manufacturer will have an easier time contacting you in the event of a recall and give you instructions on what to do next. Depending on the nature of the defect, the manufacturer may be able to provide a way to repair the problem or they could give you information about how to receive a new car seat or a refund.
Not Securing the Car Seat Itself Enough
For a car seat to be able to fully protect your child, it needs to be securely installed in the car. There are two main ways this can be done: by using a seatbelt in the car or by using the car seat’s LATCH system. It’s important to note that it’s best to use one method or the other because trying to use both can put too much strain on a car seat during an accident. If you’re using a seatbelt to secure the car seat, put one knee in the car seat with all your weight on it and tighten the seat belt as much as possible. If you’re working with an infant car seat, use your arm instead. If you’re using the LATCH system, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Once a seat has been installed, you shouldn’t be able to move it more than one inch in any direction.
Adding Car Seat Extras
You might come across things like toys or extra padding that are supposed to help make your child more comfortable or keep them entertained in their car seat, but these sorts of products should be avoided unless they’re recommended by your car seat’s manufacturer. Car seats are designed to operate in a certain way and adding extra accessories can interfere with their ability to protect your child.
During a car accident, car seats can help protect a child, but sometimes, injuries can still happen despite your best efforts. If your child has been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to contact a car accident lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have lawyers who are highly experienced in helping the victims of Michigan car accidents get the compensation they need. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.