It's important to make sure your child's car seat is installed properly and he or she is buckled in properly as well. If you don't it is considered improper use of a car seat. Not only can improper use of a car seat put your child's life in danger, but you can receive a citation or even get arrested depending on the severity and your state laws. Before you wind up in jail or with an injured child, ensure you don't make one of these common car seat safety mistakes.
Putting the seat belt through the wrong slot
Convertible car seats have two spots that the seat belt can go through. One of the spots is for forward facing while the other is for rear facing. If you put the seat belt through the wrong spot, the car seat will not be stable in the vehicle. Next to the hole you will see a label saying "forward facing only" or "rear facing only". Ensure that you read each spot so you put the seatbelt through the right one.
Forward facing a car seat too soon
Infant car seat limits are generally from 5 to 20 pounds. Many parents think that at 20 pounds they can buy a forward facing car seat. Many babies are 20 pounds before their first birthday, which makes this a serious issue. State laws require a baby to be at least 1 year and 20 pounds before they can face forward in a car seat. Some states require babies to 2 and 40 pounds.
Some people opt to skip the infant car seat altogether and start with a convertible seat. If you do choose an infant car seat and your child grows out of it before he or she can forward face, you need to buy a convertible car seat next. Convertible car seats can rear face and forward face.
Installing the seat at the wrong angle
Car seats need to be at a specific angle in the car to keep your child safe. Your car seat will either have a line that needs to be parallel to the floor or it will have a level with a small ball inside. Once the seat is strapped in, use the line or level to ensure the seat is in the right position.
Chest clip position
Car seats have a chest clip that buckles across the chest. One of the most common mistakes people make is putting the chest clip across the stomach. When a chest clip is positioned on the stomach it can cause serious injury, or even death, to a child. In a serious accident, the clip can rupture a baby's internal organs if it's on the stomach. If the chest clip is too high, it can choke a baby or even crush his or her trachea. The human body's chest cavity is built to be strong enough to protect internal organs, and that's what it will do with the chest clip.
Not tightening straps enough
The straps of the car seat have to be tighter than many people make them. Parents are often worried that their child won't be comfortable or the straps will hurt because they are too tight, which causes them to make the straps too loose. Car seat straps need to pass the pinch test. To do the pinch test, try to pinch one of the straps between your thumb and forefinger. The car seat strap should not punch together. If it does, it is too loose.
To find out if it is too tight, slip two fingers under the strap. If your two fingers fit, the straps are not too tight.
These five common mistakes made by parents are honest, but deadly. You need to make sure you know how to properly install your car seat and strap in your child. You don't want to end up with an injured child or in jail because you didn't understand how your car seat works. For more information on auto laws, check out an auto accident attorney.