Who knew kids came with so many rules? Once babies arrive, parents are flooded with information on what to do and what not to do. Some of the information can be taken with a grain of salt, after all parents have to learn what works for them, and some information should be followed because it ensures that children are as safe as possible. When it comes to car safety, there are a number of rules to follow, from how to choose a car seat to learning which type of seat is appropriate based on your child’s weight and height and to not leaving a child unattended in or near a car. It can be overwhelming at first, parents don’t want to do the wrong thing, but with time and guidance it becomes easier to put these rules into practice when operating a vehicle. Parents, especially brand new ones, shouldn’t fret. No ones perfect but the following list will highlight some of the mistakes that have been made when it comes to car safety
15 Putting a Child in a Front-Facing Seat Too Soon
In the past parents were encouraged to move their toddler from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing one when the child turned one. However, since rear-facing seats are safer for small children, keeping a toddler rear-facing for a long as possible is key. It’s best to wait until a child’s second birthday or until they’ve surpassed both the weight and height limit for a specific seat (which can range from 20 – 40 lbs). Some rear-facing seats - the convertible ones that can be turned around to become front-facing - come with an extension feature that allow parents to gradually slide them away from the back seat so that kids have more leg room as they grow. It’s important to remember that every child is different and while one may be ready based on age, height and weight, another might not be ready even if they’re the same age. There’s no rush to turn a car seat around.
14 Not Installing Seats Properly
One of the leading causes of injury to children in a car accident is the improper installation of a car seat. Taking the time to install car seats the right way will save their lives and gives parents peace of mind. Be sure to read instructions carefully to ensure that all anchors and corresponding latches are secured correctly. Installing a car seat the right way takes some muscle strength. Installers need to put their weight onto the seat so that belts can be pulled as tightly as possible. So more than one person is needed in order to ensure it’s securely fitted. Also, read your car manual as it will give helpful tips as to where to find anchors for different types of car seats. If installing a car seat on your own seems daunting, visit a car seat clinic, most cities offer them for free. This is a great option since the staff are specifically trained to install car seats. Once installed, the seat shouldn’t move more than an inch in any direction (i.e. side to side or back and forth) when pulled.
13 Leave Children Alone in Cars
It may be tempting to leave your little one in the car especially if they’re sleeping in the back seat and you really need to run into a store for a few minutes. Keep in mind that those few minutes could turn into a longer period of time. Therefore, it’s never a good idea to leave kids in a car by themselves, especially in the summer months when the temperature within a car can rise very quickly. Kids are more susceptible to illnesses such as heart-stroke because their bodies are still developing and they’re unable to cool off as easily or as quickly as an adult can. Just as important is to never let a child play in a car alone. It might seem OK at first if everyone is outside together but if a parent needs to run inside for a minute, therein lies the danger. An adventurous toddler might climb into the front seat and start pushing buttons at random - some cars don’t even need a key in the ignition in order to start - or close a door and inadvertently lock themselves in the car.
12 Failing to Engage Child Safety Locks
Cars, SUVs and minivans are equipped with child safety locks, meaning the backseat doors can only be opened from the outside when the feature is engaged. If not engaged, it’s possible for a toddler to open the back door if they can reach the handle. If they’re successful, the results could be devastating. Even more so if the child seat hasn’t been installed correctly. It’s best to keep this feature engaged until children are at an age where they can understand the dangers of touching locks on doors. Another way to prevent a serious accident is to lock car doors when the vehicle is in motion - not all car doors lock automatically when a car is in motion - and ensure that the child safety locks are engaged for added security.
11 Putting Car Seats in the Front
Under no circumstance should a rear or front-facing car seat be placed in the front seat of a car. If there’s an accident, the force of the air bag can cause serious injury to a child’s head. The safest place for a car seat and your bundle of joys is in the back seat where it can be correctly installed. It’s best for children to remain in the back seat - even if a booster seat is being used - until they’re 13 years’ old. At this point they’re big enough for car seat belts to fit them properly, this means letting the shoulder strap lie across their chest and not pushed under their arm or back and the lap belt lies comfortably across their upper thighs and not their stomach. In case of an accident they’ll be safely restrained and have adequate protection from the impact, whether due to another car or due to an airbag being deployed.
10 Putting Children in Bulky Clothes
It almost seems counterintuitive especially in the winter, but children shouldn’t where bulky coats while in their car seat. It affects the effectiveness of the seat because the harness can’t sit around the child snuggly. In case of an accident, the child is likely to get tossed around their seat and get injured. Instead, it might be worth investing in a seat cover that sits overtop of a rear-facing car seat. They ensure warmth but don’t take away from the function of the seat. If your car seat didn’t come with one, an alternative is to dress children in warm clothes and a light jacket and then use a blanket after they’ve been buckled in to keep them warm. This applies to both rear and front-facing seats. Remember not to go over board with blankets. Young children don’t need many more layers than adults do to stay warm. Too much and kids can get overheated and uncomfortable. No one wants to drive with an upset infant or toddler in the back seat.
9 Failure to Install the Tether
The tether is the strap that’s found at the back top portion of a front-facing car seat. Checking a car owner’s manual will confirm exactly where to anchor this strap in the car, which is typically behind the head rest. It’s life saving when used correctly yet only a small fraction of parents use it. Using it will ensure that in case of a car accident, the child’s head doesn’t jerk too far forward and cause injury. Again, if a car seat is moved from one car to another on a regular basis, double checking that the tether is secure is a must. Once secure, tighten it so that there’s no give and the car seat is set firmly in place. If the car’s owner’s manual has been misplaced or you’re unsure of where to find the tether anchors in your vehicle model, going to a car seat clinic is the best way to make sure that this important piece is correctly latched.
8 Using a Car Seat That Has "Expired"
Rear and front-facing car seats can be used for an average of seven years, unless they’ve been recalled. It might be tempting to reuse a hand me down seat from an older sibling or relative but check the manufacturers date on the seat before installing. Car seat clinics will also check this for you. It’s important to replace an older car seat because safety standards are updated and you can be sure that new seats are safe to use because they’ve passed rigorous testing and have the latest technology incorporated. Never buy a car seat at a garage sale since there’s no way of knowing if it was in an accident, if it was recalled (hard to tell if the manufacturer’s information isn’t visible or if labels have been removed) or if all the required parts are still on the seat. It’s best to ere on the side of caution and replace a car seat once it has expired.
7 Using a Car Seat After an Accident
Speaking of accidents, if there’s a car seat in a car that has been in an accident, it has to be replaced. No exceptions. Seats are tested for impact safety so once it’s been hit, there’s no guarantee of a child’s safety afterwards. It’s possible that the seat has been damaged in places that aren’t easy to see and will not be effective in the future. Since there’s no easy way to tell, replacing the seat is the best approach for a child’s welfare. Some insurance companies will help by reimbursing the cost of purchasing a new seat if needed. With this is mind, it’s worth it to be completely certain that your child is protected in case of any future accidents.
When disposing of a seat, cut out the harness straps, cut up the lining and scratch out the manufacturers information so that there’s no way for the seat to be used again.
6 Allowing Kids to Sleep in Their Seats
This applies to both rear and front-facing seats. It can be tempting to leave an infant or toddler in their car seat if they’ve fallen asleep and tend to wake up easily. Fight the temptation and move a sleeping child to their crib and out of the seat. Whether in a rear or front-facing seat, a child’s heads can flop forwards or they might slouch thereby compressing their chest and restricting airflow to their lungs. The best place for a sleeping child is in their own crib or bed and on their back to allow for maximum air flow. Also, placing car seats on elevated surfaces while a child is sleeping (such as a kitchen counter while cooking a meal so that it’s easy to keep an eye on the sleeping baby) increases the risk that they and the seat can fall over and cause injury. If absolutely necessary for a short period of time, keep the car seat on the ground.
5 Not Buckling a Car Seat Into the Car
It’s important to not only buckle children into their seats correctly but to buckle the actual seat into the car. It’s possible that some parents are unaware for various reason, they possibly think that correctly securing a child in the seat and placing it in the back seat are enough. This is really dangerous especially if the car takes a sharp turn or comes to an abrupt stop. The seat can flip over and badly hurt the child within it. There have been instances where a car seat fell out of a moving car with a child still inside of it. If in traffic or if the car is moving quickly, the injuries to the child can be fatal. If unsure of how to properly install a car seat, find a car seat clinic close by, make an appointment and get it done the right way.
4 Drinking and Eating in the Seat
Minimizing how much food and drinks are given to infants and toddlers in car seats is important to lessen choking possibilities. While it’s not always possible to avoid giving them options, especially during longer drives, using spill proof packets of pureed food or drinks helps minimize the dangers. For children who are able to hold the containers themselves, parents don’t have to worry that they’ll put more in their mouths than they can handle. The spouts on the packets are small enough that the child is satisfied but not at risk of swallowing too much at once. Children enjoy fruit snacks such as grapes and apple slices but these should only be given to a child while an adult is with them and close enough to help if there’s a choking issue. It’s harder to monitor an infant in a rear-facing car seat if they’re given a bottle during a car ride. If possible, having another person in the back seat who can help if needed goes a long way.
3 Driving With Kids on Laps
Believe it or not, this still happens. Whether driving around for a short distance or parking a car, it’s never OK to drive with a child on the lap of an adult. This applies to both the front (including the drivers’ side) and back seats. In case of an accident it’ll be very difficult to hold onto a child to avoid injury. It may seem like a harmless act but it’s better to avoid potential risks than to take the chance. Because children are placed in a car seat from the start, they’re accustomed to being in the back buckled in. There may be times when they don’t want to stay still but waiting for them to settle down ensures that their safety isn’t jeopardized. They should remain in the back seat until they’re old enough to move to the front seat safely. If caught, parents could face serious charges.
2 Improper Seat Recline
Reading the car seat installation manual before installing a seat is key to ensuring that the seat is at the correct angle. This is especially important in convertible car seats. They can be used as either a rear or front-facing seat that require users to recline them manually. Most seats that are designed to only be used as rear-facing come with a built-in indicator that shows that they’re at the proper angle. They’re usually already set to the right angle. Most convertible car seats have indicators on the sides that show you how far back to recline the seat to get optimal use based on the child’s age. If a seat is moved between two cars, the recline will have to be reset each time. Being sure that seats are reclined properly will help to minimize possible injuries in case of an accident.
1 Not Ensuring the Harness Fits Snugly
A harness with a snug fit ensures that your child is securely buckled into their seat and ready to hit the road. If an accident were to happen the harness would gently hold them in place and prevent them from being flung forward - possibly causing head and neck injuries. To be sure that the harness is secure, a quick check can be done to ensure that there is enough space to allow only one adult finger to slide between the harness and the child’s upper body. It may look tight to an adult but children are actually comfortable with a snug harness. It’s also important that the chest clip sits at armpit level for the child’s safety. If the clip is set too low the straps can fall off of their shoulders and leave them vulnerable to injury. If a car seat is moved from one vehicle to another frequently, the straps may shift. The harness and clip should be adjusted each time a child is buckled up.