Car seats: Common safety mistakes to avoid

Car seats are essential in keeping children safe when riding in the car, but when they aren't used correctly...

Car seats are essential in keeping children safe when riding in the car, but when they aren't used correctly they can be downright unsafe. There are several common mistakes many parents make with their child's car seat that are relatively easy to avoid or fix. Follow these tips to keep your kids safe while you drive.

One of the most common car seat mistakes made is improper installation. Not all car seats are made the same and neither are cars. A seat is not installed the same way in every car, so it's important to check both the installation instructions for the seat and your car's manual. Be sure to recheck manuals when switching between cars or using a rental car.

Most newer model cars are equipped with the LATCH system, which replaces the use of seat belts to secure a car seat. Be sure to check your manual to determine if your car is LATCH compatible. Many local Atlanta car dealerships offer free or low-cost seat installation consultations. If you have any questions at all or are unsure whether you have installed your child's seat properly, it's a good idea to get it checked out by a professional.

Car seats will not provide proper protection for your children if they are not buckled in correctly. As your child grows you will need to adjust the buckle harness so that it is at the proper setting for their height. Be sure to routinely check the harness settings to be sure they are properly adjusted to your child's size. When you buckle your child in be sure to pull the strap to fit snugly. It's important to remove any bulky jackets or outerwear before putting your child in the seat to ensure that the harness is secure. The harness latch or chest clip should align with your child's armpits, not with the neck or abdomen.

Facing foward too early
As annoying as having your child facing backward can be, it's important that you don't place your car seat into the forward-facing position too early. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children remain in the rear-facing position until the age of two, or until they reach the maximum weight and height for their car seat.

Whether you have a brand-new, top-of-the-line car seat or an older model, it is important to stay up-to-date on any recalls that could affect your child's safety. Many families with multiple children will hand down the same car seat to younger siblings as older ones outgrow them. Before you dust off an old seat to use again, make sure it hasn't been recalled or suffered any damage in previous use.

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