No matter how much effort car seat technicians and organizations like Safe Kids try to get good information out there, study results come out saying things like "at least 80 percent of car seats are used incorrectly."
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The biggest problems are usually the straps being too loose, an incorrect installation, or the child is in the wrong seat for their age and/or size. But car seats are serious business and it's the ONLY piece of baby equipment that you absolutely are required by law to have to save your baby's life. So we have to be serious about using them correctly. Anyone who has a child should read this because there are some really big car seat mistakes parents don't realize they are making. I'm going to address those mistakes and share a solution.
Problem 1: Grandma placed baby in infant seat, and the seatbelt was fastened over the child and seat. The harness was not used.
Solution: You can't trust other people to know exactly how to install your seat, so before you let anyone take your precious cargo, make them demonstrate perfect use. You must use the harness on the seat 100 percent of the time, and install the seat correctly every single time. No exceptions.
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Problem 2: Infant seats installed forward-facing, sometimes in the front seat of a truck.
Solution: They do NOT go that way, no matter what, ever. Yes, rear-facing seats are more dangerous in front of an airbag, but that's why in order to put a child in the front, the airbag must be disabled. Turning the seat forward-facing and rigging some half-assed install doesn't make them safer.
Problem 3: Dad pulled into a car seat check (yay Dad!) and techs found his full toolbox, including even a hatchet and crowbar, unrestrained in the back of the car.
Solution: Secure loose items! Do you know what would happen in an accident? Flying hatch = dead people. A 5-pound item in a 25-mile-per-hour accident flies with 125 pounds of force. Would you throw that on top of your child?
Problem 4: Infants in forward-facing seats.
Solution: Just don't do it, ever. It's illegal. Forward-facing seats are intended for children ages two and up, one year old at the BARE minimum, though it's still not wise to flip them yet and can cost them their life.
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Problem 5: Driving through a parking lot with a baby on passenger's lap.
Solution: It doesn't matter if it's across the parking lot or across the highway -- your child always needed to be 100 percent securely in their seat if the car is moving, period. Besides, if you got hit going only 15 miles per hour and your baby's head hit the dashboard, that is the equivalent of dropping them off the top of a 7 1/2-foot ladder onto their head. They can die. If you don't want to buckle them in for such a quick trip, walk across the parking lot.
Problem 6: Seat installed with anything other than the seatbelt or LATCH.
Solution: I almost fainted when a friend told me her seat was installed with zipties. Folks, if you can't do it RIGHT, you need to fix something. Part of being a parent means you have to make some sacrifices. If your car can't fit kids safely, you HAVE to get a new car. Never attach anything to a seat that it didn't come with, and never try to "rig" a seat to make it work. It either works perfectly or not at all.
Car seats are really complicated. Even the most car seat safety-conscious people sometimes still make mistakes, and often show all new installs to fellow advocates or technicians to make sure there isn't something they missed. Check out a Safe Kids car seat check near you every time you move your seat or get a new one. Your child's life depends on it. If something doesn't seem right, chances are it's NOT. Don't gamble on it.
If you accidentally did any of these things in the past, will you now make the changes to make sure your child's car seat is safe?