The Most Common Car Seat Mishaps New Parents Make
Most parents don't like to admit it, but Prince William isn't the only new parent to make a car seat mistake — nearly every new parent has gone through the experience of a car seat mishap. Whether it's improper installation of the seat itself or operator error when buckling in your child, a lot of these car seat no-nos aren't obvious until you've been set straight.
With the help of our readers, as well as guidance from Sarah Tilton, Britax's child passenger safety technician and chair of the National Child Passenger Safety Board, we've rounded up 11 of the most common car seat safety issues faced by both new parents and parents transitioning their child from one car seat to another.
Read through to make sure your child's car seat is safe.
Incorrectly Installing the Straps
"We didn't realize how the straps went, so we were strapping our son in the wrong way for nearly six months. We knew something was wrong towards the last month or so cause it got harder and harder to put him in and felt like we were hurting him but squishing him. First time parents is what I blame it on and when I did figure it out I felt horrible for our child who had to suffer, and stupid because I didn't catch it." — Megin K. via Facebook
"Put in the seat for [the] first child and the straps just didn't look right, so [I] took the car to the local ambulance station to get it checked and they said yep it's fine. I still wasn't satisfied and thought it looked wrong. For two weeks I sat in the back with Bubs for safety before my sister-in-law fixed it for us." — Monica M. via Facebook
Loose Seat Straps
Another common mistake parents make is allowing too much give in the car seat harness when buckling. The belt straps shouldn't hurt your child, but they should be snug enough that it isn't loose near the buckle, chest, or shoulders. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 60 percent of parents don't tighten their child's harness tight enough," Tilton told POPSUGAR.
Wrapping the Car Seat
"After many attempts I simply wrapped the seat belt around the car seat and carefully drove to Toys 'R' Us and they helped me. Funny, but the darn thing was so confusing." — NaDia C. via Facebook
Not Tightening Seat Hooks
"I don't anymore, but I hooked up my front facing car seat too loosely and when I turned I heard crying. It was tipped over in a 45 degree angle. I was mortified. [After that], a state trooper I know secured it for me properly." — Angela C. via Facebook
Adding Car Seat Extras
Car seat experts advise that parents swaddle infants after buckling them safely in the car seat instead of buckling over a swaddle (like a certain prince did). Parents should also avoid buckling over heavy jackets or using after-market car seat add-ons as they may limit the car seat's ability to work effectively in an accident.
Low Chest Strap
"When we brought our son home from the hospital, his chest clip wasn't positioned correctly. We drove like that for about five months, until one day I did research and found out it needs to be at armpit level. Now every time I see a child's chest clip below armpit I cringe. Parents need to get educated on proper carseat usage." — Ashley H. via Facebook
Using the LATCH System Beyond Weight Capacity
Most newer car and car seat models use the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), but even the most safety-conscious of parents may be misusing the simple car seat installation method. The LATCH system attaches the car seat to the vehicle through anchor points installed in the car and connectors on the car seat, which makes for easy installation and can eliminate potential errors resulting from installing a car seat with a seat belt. However, many parents don't know that the 65-pound weight limit for using the LATCH system includes the weight of your child as well as the weight of the car seat itself (most average between 20-25 pounds).
"Very often we see a misuse with LATCH systems as families don't know that they have a total weight capacity," Tilton told POPSUGAR. "Your car seat plus your child cannot weight more than 65 pounds. There's a label on the side of every car seat manufactured since 2014 that tells you what that child's weight capacity is for lower anchors."
Using the Inner Anchors of Window Seats to Strap a Seat Into the Middle
Some parents decide, whether because they have three car seats in the back or because they want to be able to see their child better in the middle seat, to use the outside anchors of the window seats to secure a car seat in the middle. "Many people want to use LATCH and they want to put their child in the rear center seat," Tilton said. "Most vehicles do not offer a LATCH system in the center. Some parents use the inner anchors of the outer seats, which is prohibited by many car seat and vehicle manufacturers because the distance between those lower anchors has to be a certain, set distance. In the center, the distance is much wider, so this is a very common misuse."
Using a Seat That Doesn't Fit the Child
"A very common misuse is that families will purchase that rear-facing bucket seat to bring the baby home in and then turn that seat forward facing later because they think it's better than nothing," Tilton said of parents who don't want to make a financial commitment of buying a new car seat for their baby.
Additionally, parents sometimes take their children out of a car seat and put them into a booster seat before they're big enough, which could be a fatal mistake. Christine Miller, whose 3-year-old son Kyle passed away due to a car crash because he was in a booster seat he was too small for, said: "I think the hardest part of it all is knowing how easily preventable it was. Had I just known about the dangers of booster seats for toddlers, had somebody warned me, I would have put him in a five-point harness car seat . . . and that simple difference would have changed everything. It would have saved his life."
Forgetting a Child in Their Seat on a Hot Day
Every Summer, children unfortunately lose their lives due to being left in their car seat on a hot day. Though this isn't exactly a misuse of a car seat, it's an all-too-common mistake that can be prevented. "As an advocate and as a technician, I tell people to do whatever it takes to remind you your child is in the back of the car with you," Tilton said. "Some people say to put your shoe in the backseat with your child so you have to go in there before you leave your car. If you are taking care of a child, especially when it's not your norm, leave yourself a gentle reminder to check the backseat."
Using a Car Seat Outside the Car
Aside from strollers that allow you to clip your baby's car seat into the body, car seats shouldn't be used outside the car (hence the name). Tilton told POPSUGAR: "A car seat is a safety device to use in the car. . . . Many parents focus on 'Don't wake the sleeping baby,' which unfortunately means they're not thinking about the complications or situations that can result." Because a baby could potentially slide down in a car seat, that could cause them to block their own airway, resulting in suffocation.