Stop These 10 Biggest Car Seat Mistakes For Your Baby's Safety

Here is a sobering truth: every day we lose 4 to 5 children in car crashes. They are the leading cause of death for kids in this country. But despite this statistic, across the country, more than 95% of car seats are used incorrectly. Luckily, experts have pointed out 10 common but dangerous car seat mistakes we're probably still making. Read through to find out how to do it right.

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Mistake 1: Thinking that Price is Directly Connected to Safety

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "All car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards & strict crash performance standards." It means that there is no link between the car seat's price and its effectiveness, and parents can shop safe in the knowledge that they can keep their kid safe whatever the budget.

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Mistake 2: Choosing the Wrong Size Car Seat

Selecting an improper child car seat is dangerous in a crash and may contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So, it's important to choose a seat that fits not only your kid's height and weight, but also his age. Never use a secondhand seat as there's no way to know if it has been in an accident, missing parts or even past it’s recommended lifespan.

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Mistake 3: Not Installing a Safety Seat Correctly

A safety seat won't do its job if it's installed incorrectly. NHTSA estimates that 75% safety seats are mis-installed, and the most common mistakes include not buckling the car seat in tightly enough, and using the wrong type of seat belt in the booster seat. Make sure that your child's car seat won't tip forward or slide from side to side more than an inch, and the booster seat is secured with a lap-and-shoulder belt.

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Mistake 4: Harness Straps are too Loose

Your parenting instinct may tell you that it'll be better loose to make sure your kid's comfort when he's snapped in. But a harness strap aims at safety, not comfort. It should fit very snugly to your child's body that "you can only fit one finger between your child's collarbone and the harness strap," say car safety experts.

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Mistake 5: Positioning the Chest Clip at the Wrong Level

The chest clip is a significant safety feature of your car seat. It positions the straps to benefit your child from the full protection of the car seat shell. Always place the clip at armpit level, too high or too low, the child could sustain injuries in an accident.

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Mistake 6: Using Accessories that Didn't Come With Your Car Seat

Almost all car seat manufacturers have statement warnings against the use of "aftermarket products" like seat covers, infant cushions, neck pillows, etc. This is because these items are not certified in car seat safety tests, and in many cases void the warranty on your car seat. So the only thing you should add to a car seat is a child.

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Mistake 7: Adding Heavy Coats Inside the Harness

In cold weather, parents naturally bundle up their children. But don't mix car seats and coats. The extra padding of fluffy outwear compresses in a crash, leaving the harness straps too loose to secure your little kid safely. Use no more than a sweater inside the harness system, or drape your baby's coat on backwards over the straps to keep her warm.

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Mistake 8: Facing Your Child Forward too Soon

Historically, parents turned their children forward-facing at around age 1. However, research has since shown that rear-facing is the safest position for babies, and children under age 2 in rear-facing seats are 5 times safer in a crash. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises keeping children rear-facing until at least the age of 2, or until he reaches the seat's highest rear-facing height and weight limits.

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Mistake 9: Letting Your Child Ride in the Front Seat

Your child may whine to ride in the front seat with you, but remember the backseat is by far the safest place for him. The NHTSA recommends that all children under age 13 ride safely buckled in the backseat, no exceptions.

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Mistake 10: Holding Your Child on Your Lap

When your child is having a tantrum on the ride, many parents tend to lift him out of the car seat and hold him in your arms. However, this is very dangerous even if you're belted in. Your kid could be ripped from arms by the force of a collision, and your weight could actually crush your child to death. So never hold your child on your lap while in riding.

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