The subject of car seats is no different and, no matter how well intentioned they are, parents make mistakes. Read about the most common car seat mistakes that parents make to help you avoid them in the future.
Fitting Car Seats Incorrectly
Fitting car seats incorrectly is dangerous, because they are designed to work in a certain manner. If you put them into your car in any other way, it can inhibit the safety features. The seatbelt becoming twisted through the car seat mechanism, the seat not feeling stable and the supporting leg not moved to the correct position are all errors that are easy to make.
Consumer groups recommend that you have a professional fit your car seat, or at least check over your installation to reassure you that it is safe before you put your child in the car seat.
Seats with Isofix fittings often show green and red indicators to tell you whether the seat is properly fitted, which is extremely helpful. Another test you can perform is to pull the base of the seat once installed and ensure that it doesn’t move more than an inch forwards or to either side.
Leaving the Harness Strap Too Loose
If the harness on your child’s car seat is not tight enough, it might fail to keep them in their seat in the event of an accident. In order to check that the tightness is adequate, you can perform the car seat harness pinch test. Pinch the harness straps over the child’s shoulder and, if you can pinch the material together, they are too loose.
Many parents worry that tight harness straps will be uncomfortable for the child, but the snug fit does not impact the child negatively. Harness straps are designed to fit snugly without causing discomfort.
Inappropriate Clothing for Car Seats
Related to the slack harness straps is the use of large, padded jackets in car seats. Of course you want your child to be warm in wintry conditions, but wearing a thick coat in a car seat increases the slack of the straps and, therefore, the chances of the child slipping out.
Ways to work around this include strapping the child in wearing their indoor clothes and then placing a blanket over the top. You can also buy a special car seat poncho for this specific purpose. Another solution is to turn the engine on and get the heater running a little time before placing the child in the seat.
Not Keeping Up to Date With the Latest Car Seat Rules and Regulations
As with any area of health and safety, legislation is tightened and honed as more research filters through. This means that the car seat rules and regulations can change from time to time and it can be difficult to keep up.
As it stands, children must use a car seat until they are 12-years-old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Currently, only EU approved car seats can be used in the UK, although that will change once the UK finishes its transition period and leaves the EU. Following that, it is likely that there will be new UK standards for car seats to meet, although they may well be similar to the current EU rules.
See our article on the rules around booster seats for more information on when and how children can move from car seats to boosters.
Moving to Forward Facing Car Seats Too Soon
Children can move to a forward-facing car seat at 15 months old. A common car seat mistake that parents make is to move their kids to forward-facing. This is dangerous, as rear-facing car seats offer much more protection to children as their bodies develop.
Even though the law states that those over 15-months-old CAN use a forward-facing car seat, the recommendation is that you keep them backwards facing for as long as possible. Some countries even suggest children should face backwards until they are four-years-old, such is the increased protection during the most common types of car accidents.
Risking a Second Hand Car Seat
Another of the common car seat mistakes that parents make is risking buying a second hand seat. Yes, they will save you money, but unless you can be absolutely sure that they are in good condition and haven’t been in an accident, it could endanger your child.
If there are any flaws or weaknesses in a second hand car seat, they will not be able to protect the occupant of the seat as they would have done when new.
Another problem with a second hand car seat is that it may have been produced at a time when regulations were less stringent than they are today. When you buy a new car seat, you know that it meets the most recent safety standards; this is not necessarily the case when you buy second hand.