8 Common Car Seat Mistakes

September 17th, 2014 | Posted by Purnima Unni in Health | Safety - (0 Comments)

8 common car seat mistakes

Would it surprise you to know that more than 75 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly? As child passenger safety technicians, we see a lot of common mistakes and we get a wonderful opportunity to work with families to make sure their most precious cargo — their child — is being transported safely.

This week is National Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Week so we are sharing common car seat mistakes we see, along with some simple changes that can help prevent a serious injury.

  1. Car seats that are too loose: If a seat is correctly installed, when you pull at the belt path, the seat should move no more than one inch from side to side or back to front. A child-passenger-safety technician trained in car-seat installation can show you how to get a correct and secure installation. Find a Safe Kids car seat check-up event or inspection station where certified technicians can assist.
  2.  Straps that are too loose: The harness straps should fit snugly with no slack. If they are too loose, a child can be ejected from the seat. To test, using your thumb and forefinger, try to pinch the straps vertically at the collarbone. You should not be able to pinch any harness webbing. Also, avoid putting bulky clothing on children, such as a thick winter coat, before you put them in a car seat.
  3. Incorrectly positioned harness straps. They should be at or below shoulder level in a rear-facing seat or at or above shoulder level in a forward-facing seat. Be sure to check the straps often, as children grow quickly and the harness position can be easily overlooked.
  4. Not using the top tether: An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that only half of car seats were attached by the top tether and most parents didn’t think it was necessary. Actually, the top tether is very important because it significantly reduces a child’s risk for head and other injuries in a crash. Check the vehicle and child restraint manuals for limits on tether and anchor use.
  5. Turning forward too soon: For the best protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat for as long as possible, usually till about age 2. Follow the height and weight limit requirements you will find on the side or back of the seat.
  6.  Placing toys, mirrors, or other items in or around a car seat: Avoid using any after-market products with your car seat. Rarely will they have been crash-tested with the seat and they may change how the seat works in a crash. These items also can become dangerous projectiles in a crash. Store all loose items in a console, pocket or the trunk. Some child-seat manufacturers make products specifically designed for the seats and come with the seat at the time of purchase.
  7. Using an old or second-hand seat:  Used seats are unlikely to come with the manufacturer’s instructions (vital for correct installation), may be missing important parts, may have been involved in a crash (even unseen damage can affect the seat’s functioning), may fall short of current safety standards, or may have been recalled due to faulty design. In addition, car seats expire because their parts break down over time. To find a seat’s expiration date, look for a sticker on the seat with manufacturing date or expiration date. If you can’t find it, contact the car seat manufacturer.
  8. Getting rid of the booster too early: A seat belt that doesn’t fit properly can do more harm than good, penetrating internal organs, damaging the spinal cord or, if the shoulder strap is improperly fitted, seriously injuring the head. It is important to keep your child in the booster seat until the seat belt fits properly. Because seat belts are designed for people who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall, that may not be until your child is 12 years old or older.

Take a few extra minutes to check your car seats and make sure your little bundle of joy is safe!  If further assistance is needed, and to ensure your seat is correctly installed, call to speak with a child passenger safety technician or to schedule an appointment.

Purnima Unni is the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She is a wife and mother of two girls, ages 16 and 13. She loves to cook, travel and watch murder mysteries. She is fluent in 3 languages and wishes she had a green thumb.


My husband Jeff and I got married in June 2011 and were lucky to get pregnant immediately. When I say immediately, I mean that we celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a 3-month old so it was VERY quick! Fast forward a few months (when our first, Miss Caroline was 6 months old) and we got another BIG surprise: We were expecting No. 2.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was an emotional wreck — scared that I would go through another pregnancy so soon, saddened that I wouldn’t be able to devote 100 percent of my focus on Caroline, and excited to welcome another miracle into this world and give Caroline a sibling. My pregnancy was fairly easy (other than a fact I was chasing around another baby) and Carson Elizabeth came into our world on June 15, 2013.

She was known as “little bit” from the moment she arrived two weeks early and a full pound lighter than her sister’s birth weight. She captured our hearts immediately, and I cherished every second I had with her in that hospital before we were sent home. Then the REAL FUN started.

Basically, life changed quickly and we learned what worked, what didn’t, and how to savor each and every moment, because when they say it goes by in a blink, they aren’t lying. So here are my tips, tricks, and advice for how to weather the storm of two under 2 (or just one for that matter):

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help. We relied heavily on family and friends when we needed an extra set of hands  (or two). My husband frequently travels for work, so I called in reinforcement when he was out of town and I needed assistance. We also took advantage of having an amazing babysitter so Jeff and I could have monthly date nights, to focus on each other and remember we were people other than mommy and daddy. NEVER be afraid to ask for help. The people you love want to help you — I promise!

Take Time for Yourself. Whether it’s a hot bath after a long day, a shopping excursion to Target all by yourself after the babies are asleep, or crawling into bed to read a book, take time to do the things you love whenever you get a chance. It’s true it won’t happen as frequently as it used to, but it helps you erase the bad from the day and focus on the good.

Savor Each Moment. One of my favorite sayings is “the days are long, but the years are short.” When it comes to parenting, I have found this is most true. Remember to look at the glass half full and make sure to find good in everyday occasions like trips to the library, play dates with friends or your child learning a new word. You’ll miss this stage once it’s over so try not to rush it along too quickly.

 Siblings AKA Best Friends. One minute they love each other and the next minute, they don’t. You know the drill and by now, I do, too. Growing up as an only child, I longed for a sibling and I am thankful that my girls have each other. Through thick and thin, family comes first. They will always have a friend for life, to play dress up with, paint each other’s toes, and all the other fun that’s to come (and if one gets bullied at school, you know the other one has their back, too)!

Now that my girls are 2 and a half and 15 months, we find ourselves in a fairly good routine. They play together (thank you, Lord!), eat the same food at meals, and nap at the same time during the day (heaven on Earth). I won’t lie, I miss the “baby” stage now that they are both mobile and on the go every waking moment. But I am basking in this new stage of life we are in and giving them the happiest childhood we can.

Natasha blogs over at Hello! Happiness about recipes, workout and healthy living tips, fashions for moms and babies, ways to plan a fun party, and everything in between. A Nashville native, she is a lover of all things southern. She is married to Jeff, the mother to two darling girls Caroline (2.5 years) and Carson (15 months) and owner of the online baby and children’s boutique, Sugar Bit.

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