How Safe is Your Baby’s Car Seat?
Your baby’s safety is paramount. Check out the top 10 car seat errors to make sure your little one is strapped in properly every time you travel.
Top 10 Car Seat Errors
Of course there are more than 10 mistakes that are made when installing and using car seats. Those listed below are the most commonly seen errors and quite likely the most fatal to your child's safety.
1. Not reading the manual
It’s amazing how many problems can be avoided by simply consulting the instructions. Read the manual that came with the seat and the child restraint section in the vehicle’s ownership manual, if this is not mentioned contact the dealership. Read them again when converting a seat from rear facing to front facing, or to a booster and vice versa.
2. Moving up too soon
Many parents are too anxious to move their child from a rear facing to a forward facing seat, or from a child seat to a booster. Resist this urge. The age, weight and height recommendations have been tested for your child’s safety. Think about your child’s development too, you can start using some forward facing seats at 8kgs, but a baby that size who can’t yet pull himself up unassisted should stay in a rear facing seat. This is not based on the child's ability to hold their head up. It is based on the child's development of the spine and neck, something that cannot be seen or judged but strengthens with age, in this case beyond 12 months for rear facing and over 3 years old for a booster.
3. Belts that are too loose
Installing a car seat is a two-person job, like putting up a tent. One of you need to press the seat down with a knee while someone else attaches and tightens the seat belt. If the seat moves more than a 2.5cm in any direction, tighten it more. This method needs to also be used when fitting LATCH car seats; less pressure is needed for rigid isofix seats.
4. Using the harness incorrectly
There should only be enough room for two fingers between the harness strap and your child’s chest. People often worry that the straps are too tight but if you don’t feel compression, the harness isn't tight enough.
Adjust the straps to accommodate the child and make sure they lie flat against the child's body. Finally, make sure the straps are in the right slots for your child’s size: They should be at or just above the shoulders in a forward facing child seat; in a rear facing infant seat, they should be at or just below the shoulders.
5. Misusing child restraints
As parents convert a seat from rear facing to forward facing, there are so many alternatives that people get confused.
For example, the top harness slots in most convertible seats are only to be used in the forward facing position. Some people use the stabilising bar as a footrest, this should not be out during forward facing use.
Another mistake is not removing the harness when converting the seat to a booster.
6. Attaching the tether strap incorrectly — or not all
The tether reduces the forward force on your child’s head in a collision. Yet this critical component is often too loose, or absent. If your seat has a tether strap you need to use it. The safety standard on your car seat is issued when car seats have been crash tested and such test includes use of the tether strap - Use it.
7. Attaching tether straps to luggage clips
Cargo clips can look similar to tether bolts in some cars but should never be used to attach a child restraint to.
Cargo points hold a maximum load of 25kgs, while your child may weigh less than 25kgs the force expelled during an accident is much greater than your child's weight and would be likely to tear the cargo clip entirely from the vehicle, making your child and the car seat a projectile object.
8. Bulky clothing, blankets and sleeping bags
Bulky clothing needs to be removed before placing your child into their car seat. Such clothing makes the harness loose in places and your child may be ejected from the seat in an accident.
Blankets need to be placed over the child once the belts are done up, never wrap a child first and then place them into the restraint.
Avoid using sleeping bags in the child restraint as it may force the belt to sit lower down on the child and not work accurately in an accident or sudden stop.
9. Projectile objects
Unsecured items in your car can be lethal in a sudden stop or accident. The forces behind any object can become much greater than when the object is still. This can be related greatly to Newton's first law of motion (Inertia).
Objects that are not buckled into the car need to be placed in the boot. Station wagons are best to be fitted with a cargo barrier, or have a cargo net secured to cargo clips placed over the objects.
10. Installing a car seat in front of an airbag
Never put car seat in the front seat of the car where air bags are fitted this applies to all child restraints but mostly rear facing seats. If a child under 12 years of age who is forward facing must be placed in the front seat slide the seat as far back as possible to avoid injury. Switch off airbags where possible.
Always place children under 12 years old in the rear seat of the car to avoid injuries from an airbag. Injuries include but are not limited to broken bones, burns and abrasions.
Back seat and side airbags inflate differently and are not a problem for car seats.
In short, these are all shortcuts - they may save time, they but they may not save your child'slife.
This article was originally posted on www.childrestraints.co.nz/top10.php
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