Top 6 Child Car Seat Mistakes
Knowing that using a child car seat could save your child’s life if a crash occurs, here are some of the most common (and potentially harmful) mistakes to avoid when using child car seats:
1. Using the wrong type of child car seat
There are various types of child car seats on the market; some are made for specific age ranges while others may be converted to accommodate a child of different ages (as (s)he grows). Also, different child car seats can be made of different materials, as well as use different systems for securing children and attaching to a vehicle.Choosing the wrong child car seat can end up meaning that your child is not as protected or safe as you may think. It could also end up putting your child in more danger if a crash happens (especially if the seat has an unsafe design, is made of poor-quality materials, etc.).Avoid this child car seat mistake by:
- Doing some research before you make a purchase: The NHTSA rates the safety of various types of child car seats (and you see a full list of current ratings, ranging from 1 to 5 stars, here).
- Testing child car seats out in your vehicle before purchasing them: Try to fit different varieties of seats in your vehicle to figure out which one fits best and will be the most secure.
2. Not registering child car seats with the manufacturer
Sending in product registration information (to the manufacturer) is important because it’s the only way that the manufacturer can reach out to you and alert you if there’s a recall, defect or issue with your child car seat.Avoid this mistake by:
- Sending in the product registration card or completing the registration process online as soon as possible after purchasing a child car seat.
- Registering your child car seat online with the NHTSA (which you can do here). This will allow federal officials to directly contact you if or when a recall for your child car seat is issued.
- Updating the registration information if your address or other contact information changes.
3. Not properly securing the child car seat in the vehicle
Child car seats will provide the best protections when they fit tightly within cars (to the point where they pretty much become part of the vehicle). A tight fit can be achieved by leaning into the child car seat while cinching the seatbelt or tether straps down and fitting them into the proper enclosures. If child car seats aren’t properly secured, again, there’s a far greater risk that children will get hurt even in minor fender benders.Avoid this mistake by:
- Carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions for fitting the child car seat into the vehicle.
- Possibly having an expert (like a transportation safety professional) assist in or double check the fit/placement/securement of the child car seat. The NHTSA has a free tool that allows parents to search for local child car seat inspection stations (by state and zip code) to make it as easy as possible for parents to get the assistance they need with child car seats.
4. Not properly securing the child in the car seat
Failing to secure the straps and latches that are meant hold a child in a car seat can be another major and possibly harmful oversight. This can involve not latching the right buckles together, as well as failing to tighten the straps enough.Avoid this mistake by:
- Following the manufacturer’s instructions for securing a child in the car seat.
- Making sure the straps are properly adjusted as the child grows and the orientation of the seat is changed.
5. Not using booster seats
Booster seats, the final transition out of the child car seat, can elevate children enough so that, if a car crash happens, they aren’t slipping out from under the seatbelt (or being catapulted over the top of it). Not using boosters can, again, put children at unnecessary risk of serious injuries if a collision should occur.Avoid this mistake by making sure children who’ve outgrown front-facing car seats ride in boosters until they are at least 4’9” (or 57”) tall (regardless of age).
6. Not responding to child car seat recalls
Unfortunately, not all child car seats on the market are as safe and effective as they may seem. This can be the result of manufacturers cutting corners in the design or manufacturing process, failing to test the safety of seats, etc. While recalls are meant to inform parents of dangerous or faulty child car seats (and fix the seats or get them out of circulation), many parents don’t respond to recalls (because they aren’t aware of the recall or they simply don’t make the fix a priority).Avoid this mistake by:
- Responding to any recall affecting your child car seat ASAP.
- Being proactive and checking for recalls (rather than waiting to be notified about them) using this NHTSA tool.