Common Car Seat Mistakes

Image by Britax via Amazon

Image by Britax via Amazon

Car Seat Safety

You may have heard this before: “We didn’t use car seats back in my day, but we all turned out fine. Just put on a seatbelt!” Probably well-intended, but a logical fallacy nonetheless - anecdotes are not data, and it misses the blindingly obvious - the roads today are significantly riskier than that of two decades ago. Data has shown that the use of car seats reduce the risk of serious injury by up to 70%.

How Car Seats Save Children

A child’s body is delicate. Much of a baby's skeleton is made of soft cartilage, making them more susceptible to injury in a crash, as their organs are not as well-protected as those of an adult.

Other factors that can make accidents more dangerous for children include:

  • Developing brains and spinal cords - more vulnerable to damage

  • Children’s smaller size (and mass) - it takes very little force to send a child flying through a windshield

  • Ants in their pants - squirming, not seated securely

Whether it’s an hour’s drive, or a 5 minute trip to the store, car seat safety is paramount and should be non-negotiable, even if our children are in hysterics - screaming, kicking and pulling fistfuls of hair as we try to buckle them in.

Common Car Seat Errors

While choosing a good car seat is vital for protection in a crash, it also relies on other equally important factors to maximise its safety. Even the best and most expensive ones cannot ensure that it is installed properly, or that it is the right fit for your child’s height and weight.

A study that observed more than 13,000 children noted that approximately 90% were using car seats. Of these, only 60% were using the correct type, with only 20% of those 4-8 years of age correctly using a booster seat.

The statistics for incorrect use are even worse, at an astounding rate of 70-80%. Up to 50% of car seat users were found to install them incorrectly, which won’t adequately keep the child safe in the event of a crash. If the seat dislodges during an accident, it would be thrown about inside the vehicle, seriously injuring or killing the child, and potentially hurting other passengers in the vehicle.

Here are some common errors one should look out for:

  • Incorrect car seat type or size - a car seat that is either too big or too small, offering less security.

  • Improper car seat position - even a secure, quality car seat will offer only limited protection to a newborn in the front seat of the car or who is facing forward.

  • Poor installation - a car seat base that is not flush against the seat and securely fastened, and a car seat that is not fully and securely attached to its base.

  • Incorrect harnessing - car seat buckles that are not fully buckled, or that are too loose to provide any real protection.

Sometimes, the fights that ensue with older children over being strapped in can lead to a justification that an ill-fitting car seat is better than no car seat at all. But in some cases, it could actually be more dangerous, leading to being trapped or strangulated as your child slips downward. Buckle your child every time. It is the most important thing you can do to keep your child safe in a vehicle.