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Posted on: May 3, 2022

Get a free car seat checkup and avoid the 5 most common car seat mistakes

Woman buckles a happy baby into a car seat

Press release from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Most parents think they are using their car seats correctly, but unfortunately, most car seats are used improperly. For a car seat to best protect your child, it must fit your child and your vehicle, and you must use it correctly every time you travel.  Now is a good time to get a free car seat inspection to make sure that your car seat fits your child and is installed correctly in your vehicle. 

Car crashes continue to be one of the leading causes of death for children under age 13. Sadly, crash data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows that the risk of being in a crash is even higher this year than last year, with vehicle fatalities in the first six months of 2021 up more than 18% from the same time period in 2020.  

City of Victoria Municipal Court offers free car seat inspections

Get a free car seat inspection. By appointment only. Bring your child. Know their weight and height.Securing your children properly in an age- and size-appropriate car seat in the back seat of your vehicle — is the most effective thing you can do to protect them in the event of a crash. That’s why Victoria Municipal Court Administrator Tiffany Totah is urging all parents and caregivers to attend the child safety seat checkup event 4-6 p.m. May 19 at the Victoria Community Center, 2905 E. North St.

Tiffany Totah“The Municipal Court is committed to educating our community about traffic safety, and part of that is making sure that children are safe in the event of a crash,” Totah said. “Using a car seat correctly is a simple measure that can save your child’s life, so we encourage caregivers to come visit us and make sure their children are properly protected.”

Certified technicians will provide on-site child safety seat inspections and teach caregivers about proper car seat use.

The court is hosting this event in partnership with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension and the Texas Department of Transportation.

The inspections are free, but an appointment is needed. To make an appointment, call Totah at 361-485-3050 or visit www.victoriatx.gov/carseat

To partner with the Municipal Court for a community event, visit www.victoriatx.gov/courtoutreach

5 most common car seat mistakes

Watch the video – 5 Most Common Car Seat Mistakes - https://vimeo.com/535890960  (English) or https://vimeo.com/456716811 (Spanish)

Here is a list of the most common mistakes that technicians see when they are inspecting car seats and how they can be avoided. 

1.  Selection Errors

Most children leave the hospital in a rear-facing only infant seat or a rear-facing convertible seat. Children should remain rear-facing until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for the rear-facing convertible seat. Most convertible seats go to at least 40 pounds rear-facing, while there are some that go to 45 or 50 pounds. At 40 to 50 pounds, the seat could accommodate an average 3- to 4-year-old.

Children should ride in a forward-facing harnessed seat until they reach the height or weight limit for the seat. The average forward-facing seat goes to at least 40 pounds in the harness, with many available that go as high as 85 pounds. 

When the limit of the forward-facing seat has been reached, caregivers can consider a booster seat if the child is at least 4 years old, 40 pounds and mature enough to stay correctly seated and buckled for the entire trip. Booster seats should be used until the lap and shoulder belt fit the child correctly. This is usually sometime between 8 and 12 years of age.

Seat belts can be used when the child can sit up straight, bend their knees at the edge of the vehicle bench and touch the floor. In addition, the lap belt must fit securely over the upper thighs and the shoulder belt must fit across the middle of the shoulder and flat against the chest.

2.  Direction Errors

Most parents turn their children forward-facing too soon. Parents are understandably anxious to see their children forward-facing so that they can better interact with them.  However, research shows that rear-facing is the safest way for a small child to travel. Rear-facing helps to align the child’s head, neck and spine and spreads the crash forces over the child’s body rather than concentrating them in any one area. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping a child rear-facing until they reach the maximum weight or height limit for the rear-facing convertible. Do not worry about the child’s legs against the back of the seat. Their joints are flexible, and they can sit comfortably that way. 

3.  Harnessing Errors

Many children ride with a loose harness system that is not at the correct position in relation to the child’s shoulders. The harness should be at or or below the child’s shoulders for rear-facing seats and at or above the shoulders for forward-facing seats. The plastic chest clip that comes on all harnessed seats needs to go across the chest, armpit to armpit, to make sure that the straps are properly positioned on the child’s shoulders. 

Test the webbing at the child’s shoulders to make sure it is snug. If you can pinch up any of the webbing, it is too loose. Proper harnessing helps to prevent movement, which in turn helps to protect the child from injuries. Do not put on bulky jackets under the harness. 

4.   Installation Errors

Installing a car seat using the vehicle seat belt requires the car seat to be locked and stay locked. Vehicles made in 1996 and later are required to have a way to lock in a car seat in every position except the driver’s seat. Most vehicles have a shoulder belt retractor that — when gently pulled all the way out — will change from locking in an emergency to locking all the time for a car seat. Some car manufacturers put the locking mechanism in the latch plate instead of the shoulder belt.

Vehicles dated 2003 and newer have LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) installed in at least two seating positions. The lower anchors and the tether take the place of the seat belt and should not be used together with the seat belt unless both the car seat and the vehicle instructions allow this. Neither LATCH nor the seat belt are safer than the other. Whether the seat is installed using the seat belt or the lower anchors, the tether is important to reduce forward head movement. 

Check the car seat at the belt path to make sure it is secure. It should not move more than 1 inch side to side or front to back when tugged on at the belt path.

5.   Skipping a Free Inspection

It is important to read the car seat manual as well as your car owner’s manual to make sure you are using the car seat correctly and installing it correctly in the vehicle.   In addition, have your car seat inspected by a certified child passenger safety technician.

Remember: All child passengers under age 13 should ride securely restrained in the back seat, where they are safest — every trip, every time! 

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