Top 10 Car Seat Dangers to Avoid

Avoid these car seat dangers when using and installing your car seat!

1. Placing a rear facing car seat in front of an air bag.

A rear facing child's head is very close to the airbag. The force from an airbag can kill a young child.

If you have no other option than to use a front seating position with a rear facing child, you MUST turn the airbag off or petition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have your airbag disabled.

Special note: the driver's airbag CAN hit the center front seat passenger. Unfortunately I know this because I was there! I was riding in a lap only seat belt in the middle seating position in a pick up truck. (Yes, this was before I knew better.) A drunk driver slammed into the front corner on the driver's side. The airbag deployed, saving me from smashing my face into the hard plastic dashboard. Instead, without a shoulder belt to hold me back, my face flung forward into the airbag, breaking my nose, cutting my face in two places and giving me a huge, swollen shut black eye. It also caused some momentary loss of memory. (I believe this is a better outcome than if I had hit the hard dashboard!)

2. Turning your child forward facing too early.

Don't be too excited to turn your child forward facing. We'd all be better off during most crashes if we were facing the rear... but it's hard to drive that way.

Keep your child rear facing until 2 years of age (yes, I said 2 years old) UNLESS he has outgrown the rear facing limits of his convertible car seat.

An article published in the professional journal, Pediatrics (2008) shows that one year olds are 5 times safer riding rear facing than forward facing.

Note: The EXTREME minimum age a child could ride forward facing is both one year AND 20 pounds. If the child has not met BOTH of these numbers, then (s)he is at a high risk of not surviving a crash or facing severe injuries.

3. Moving to the next car seat too soon.

This is one area where early graduation is NOT a good thing. Children are safer riding in their current car seat until they outgrow each seat.

Here you will fine a complete guide for when to switch from one car seat stage to the next.

4. Assuming the car seat is installed right.

The numbers are alarming! About 90% of us are using or installing our harnessed car seats wrong! And over half of us are using our booster seats wrong!

True, it's not rocket science and you CAN get it right. Sometimes it's a matter of knowing just how the car seat is supposed to be set up. Sometimes it's a bit trickier.

Get your car seat inspected by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Find one near you.

5. Using winter coats or extra padding

Extra padding, like winter coats, will change the way the harness works during a crash...for the worse. This padding will flatten out like a pancake during a crash and give the child more room to fling forward, resulting in a greater chance of injury.

SOLUTION #1: Take your child's coat off before buckling him into the harness. Buckle the harness and place the coat on the child BACKWARDS.

SOLUTION #2: Leave a blanket in the car & only use the coat for getting to & leaving from the vehicle...not in the car seat.

SOLUTION #3: For infants, use car seat covers or blankets over the infant seat, not under the harness.

6. Using a car seat that has already been in a crash.

Car seats are one-time-use items, just like bike helmets. A crash can put severe stress on a car seat. Even though you may not see any damage, it just might not hold up during a second crash.

Your car seat owner's manual should have a warning about replacing the car seat in the event of a crash. Check it out.

Most insurance companies will cover the replacement cost of the car seat, but you have to tell them about it. They generally do not ask you if you had a car seat in the vehicle.

Here are policy statements from SAFE KIDS Worldwide and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

7. Missles in the car. (AKA: hard toys, tissue boxes, crow bars, etc.)

Any loose object in your car will travel the speed you were going through your car during a crash. A hard toy, a baby mirror, a can of paint, a hammer, a small plastic trash can...anything that is thrown at me or my kids at 30, 40, 50 miles an hour is going to hurt like the dickens! And quite possibly send us to the emergency room.

I personally became more aware of items in my own car when a sheriff's deputy told me that she once arrived on the scene of a crash and found a tissue box embedded into the back of a passenger's head.

Now, I realize that somewhere in all this lies reality. You cannot live without carting around items like groceries, etc. However, do try your best to secure these items and make an effort to go soft (stuffed animals instead of hard toys, static sunshades instead of roll down sunshades with metal bars in them) instead of hard.

8. Altering your car seat.

Hmmm. This may sound weird, but I've seen car seats that have had holes drilled into the plastic so that toy bags could be attached. I've seen interesting modifications made to the back of the harness when the harness was removed for washing & the parent couldn't remember how to put it back together. I've seen knots in the straps, twist ties used for holding straps together, etc., etc.

The car seat will only work properly if it is set up the way it was intended to be used. It has only been crash tested THIS way.

Using it any other way or modifying it in any way may cause serious harm to your child.

9. Not buckling the car seat into the vehicle

The concept here is that, in a crash, the child slows down with the vehicle. If the car seat is not buckled into the vehicle it will fly around the car and possibly out of the car causing serious injury or death to the child.

10. Not buckling the child's harness

When a child is not buckled into the car seat or a passenger is not seat belted, they become another missile in the vehicle, traveling at the speed the vehicle was going until something stops them. Ouch!

Restraints are designed to keep passengers in the vehicle. Once a person is ejected they are 4 times more likely to end up as a fatality. So buckle up!