A properly installed car seat is the best way to protect a young child during a car crash. However, the American Association of Pediatrics says that 75 to 80% of car seats aren’t properly installed. This means children are being put at risk.
There are many reasons why car seats aren’t used correctly. Sometimes, it is because the instructions that come with the seat are confusing. Other times, the seat isn’t a good fit for the car. Usually, it is just the result of misinformation.
Myth #1: You should choose your child’s car seat based on their age.
This is partly true. A newborn should be placed in a rear-facing infant seat or a rear-facing convertible car seat. However, there is no magic age at which your child should transition to the next type of car seat. Experts recommend that your child stay rear-facing until he reaches the limit of the seat. Once the child is forward-facing, they should remain in a car seat with a five-point-harness until he reaches the seat’s weight limit.
What does this mean? If you have a large six-month-old, you may need to transition from an infant seat to a rear-facing convertible seat long before your child’s first birthday. If your 4-year-old weighs 32 pounds, it is safest to leave her in her car seat, even if her friends are using boosters.
Myth #2: The best car seat is the most expensive one.
There is no “best” car seat. The right car seat for you will depend on your child’s age and size, the vehicle you drive, and the features you need. If your child is large for his age, the right car seat may be one with a high rear-facing weight limit. If your child is tall, the right seat may be one with a high back. Or, you may need a seat that is narrow, so you can fit seats for three children in the back of your car.
Parent reviews are a good way to find out which seat might fit your needs, but you should always try the seat in your vehicle to make sure it is compatible. The seat that works well in your friend’s minivan may be very difficult to fit into a Ford Focus. Stores like Babies “R” Us allow you to try a car seat before you buy.
Myth #3: You should get your car seat installed at the fire station.
This is another myth that is partly true. You should have your seat installation checked by a trained technician, but you should also know how to install the seat on your own. You may need to move it from car to car or use it in an airplane. Ask the technician to help you install the seat instead of installing it on their own.
Myth #4: Once the seat is in, I am set. I never need to install it again.
This isn’t true. You will need to change your car seat’s installation as your child grows. You may need to take the seat out to lengthen the straps or raise the back. You may need to change the seat’s position. If your child and seat weigh over 65 pounds combined, you will need to switch from using LATCH to a seat belt installation. One option is to bring your seat in to a car seat fitting station every six months.
Myth #5: A used car seat can be a great deal.
There are many reasons to avoid buying a used car seat, especially if you don’t know the history of the seat. A car seat that has been in an accident is unsafe. Car seat straps that have been washed in a washing machine may fail. Older seats may not meet the latest standards. Car seats have an expiration date, and after the expiration date, the materials in the seat may degrade so they fail in a crash.
Myth #6: The LATCH system is safer than using the vehicle’s seat belt.
The LATCH system is designed to make car seat installation easier, but it isn’t always the best choice. The best installation is that which keeps the seat in place. A safely installed car seat will not move more than an inch side-to-side or forward and back. If you can’t get a tight fit using LATCH, a seat belt installation may be better.
There’s one other reason to choose a car seat installation. If your child and the seat weigh over 65 pounds combined, the LATCH anchors can fail. Weigh your child and his seat. If the combined weight is more than 65 pounds, don’t use LATCH.
Kaufman Law represents victims of car accidents throughout Georgia. There is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child. Please browse our library to learn more about car seat safety and feel free to share this information with other parents.