A 2016 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that nearly 95 percent of new parents misuse car safety seats. You might think you’re the exception—but when it comes to your kid’s safety, it’s better to play it safe than sorry. Here are some of the most common car seat mistakes parents make—and how to fix them.
Recently, Cars.com released its 2018 Car Seat Check Honor Roll, which revealed the results of 85 vehicle safety tests. The site found that only nine percent of the 2018 and 2019 model-year vehicles tested earned perfect scores. Even though some cars are safer than others, choosing the right seat and using the correct installation method are both major parts in the child-car seat safety equation.
For Child Passenger Safety week, we spoke with Cars.com Editor-in-Chief—and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician—Jenni Newman about some of the more common mistakes parents make when it comes to car seats.
Car seats aren't like IKEA furniture, so a lot of parents just toss the manual. Reading both the manuals for your car seat and your car can help you to keep your baby safe. According to Newman, "Some automakers don't recommend car seat installation in the middle position of the back seat, for instance." Newman also told us, "You want to make sure you comply with both the automaker's and car-seat maker's recommendations."
Choosing the Wrong Seat for Your Car You have a car. You have a car seat. And now you have a perfect pair. Right? Not always. Newman notes, "Not all car seats will work in all cars." The dimensions of your car's seats may rule out the use of some safety seats. So what should you do if your car and your car seat aren't compatible? Obviously, you could get a new car—but we're pretty sure getting a new car seat is the easier and less expensive option.
Not Asking for Help Car seats can be confusing—especially for first-time parents. If you think you probably-sort-of-maybe installed your child's safety seat correctly, it's best to get help from a pro. Luckily, Sep. 29 is National Seat Check Saturday. The Safe Kids Worldwide website can connect you with a car seat check event in your area. If you can't make it to one of these events, check with your your child's pediatrician or your local police or fire department; they may be able to connect you with a certified passenger safety technician.
Using the Wrong Type of Seat There are three main types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats. Each type of seat has a sub-type, such as convertible, all-in-one, rear-facing only or combination. Always follow the guidelines set by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSTA). If you're in doubt, ask an expert. A certified child passenger safety technician can make sure that you've chosen the right seat, too.
Switching your child from a rear-facing to front-facing position is a long-awaited rite of passage. What parent doesn't want to see their baby's smiling face in the rear-view mirror. But changing positions too soon can have serious consequences. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated its car seat safety guidelines to recommend that parents keep children rear-facing until the reach the height and weight maximum limits set by their specific car seat manufacturer. For some kids, that could mean they stay rear-facing until up to age 3.
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