By Florida law, any child under the age of 5 years must be in an approved and appropriate child safety seat, full stop. Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children; a properly secured child is up to 70% safer in a collision—and that’s all the data parents should require to ensure they’re bucking up their kids.
Still, even the most ardent law-abiding parents make mistakes without even realizing it. Here are ten of the most common albeit dangerous slip-ups when it comes to kid car seats, as well as some easy ways to correct them.
10. Choosing the Wrong Car Seat
Some parents use the wrong car seat for their child’s weight, height and age. Florida doesn’t strictly outline what those requirements are, but the NHTSA has a list of suggested child restraint guidelines by age:
- Rear-facing infant seats should be used from birth to three years, or until the child has outgrown it.
- Forward-facing car seats should be used from one year to seven years, or until the child’s shoulders are too tall for the safety harness.
- Booster seats should be used from four years to 12 years, or until the child is big enough to be fastened safely with a seatbelt.
Additionally, it’s important to keep children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Kids have big heads—that’s not a knock on their physical appearance—and most dangerous car accidents are front-impact collisions. Therefore, rear-facing child seat prevents those enormous noggins from lunging forward, potentially injuring the child’s neck and spine.
How to correct: To see if you’re using or buying the right car seat, read its label. Every seat has a label, which outlines the suggested age, weight, and height restrictions for that particular model. You can also identify the right type of car seat by using NHTSA’s Car Seat Finder.
9. Using an Old, Expired Car Seat
Like milk and eggs, car seats have expiration dates—and parents, erroneously, are quick to look past them. This is a big mistake as some components in those older car seats can deteriorate with age. Metal parts, like screws, can even rust (thanks South Florida humidity!) and fall apart prematurely, which makes it even more important for Florida parents to buy new safety seats.
How to correct: Don’t buy used car seats at garage sales or accept hand-me-down seats from family. Buy new instead. If you need financial assistance purchasing the right car seat for your child, you may be eligible to take advantage of one of Florida’s most underutilized programs ran by Early Learning Coalition of the Nature Coast. Most applicants can apply and purchase reduced-priced car seats for about $30.
8. Using a Car Seat That’s Been in a Crash
Did you know that you should replace any car seat that’s been involved in a moderate or severe automobile accident? Harnesses, anchor straps and plastic materials may become deformed, torn or otherwise damaged after these crashes. If this occurs, the car seat should be recycled and replaced; cut the straps and harnesses to indicate its potential damage.
How to correct: Did you know most auto insurance policies cover the comparable replacement of any car seat damaged in a crash? Ask your insurance agent for advice.
But if you want some added peace of mind, you should consider purchasing or leasing a safer vehicle. Honda has a 50-year track record of creating such vehicles. Last year, a total of seven 2019 Honda models earned five-star NHTSA safety ratings (2019)*, IIHS Top Safety Pick or 2019 Top Safety Pick+ (2019) awards**, including these ‘19 Honda vehicles: Accord, Fit, CR-V, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, and Insight.
7. Not Registering the Seat
When recalls are issued or safety concerns are raised about a car seat, you’ll only be notified if you’ve legally registered the car seat. In some instances, car seats are recalled entirely, prompting parents to seek a refund or complimentary replacement by the manufacturer. Of course, if you haven’t registered, parents may not be eligible to receive a refund.
How to correct: Parents can easily register their car seat on the seat manufacturer’s website or via NHTSA.
6. Unsafe Car Seat Position
The rear seat is a must, but there are other things to consider as a parent, like which spot in the back is safest. Although airbag systems have come a long way in just a decade, the best spot to position a child’s car seat is in the center rear; children seated there statistically have a 43% lower risk of injury.
How to correct: Install car seats in the middle of your vehicle’s middle or back row. If you have multiple children, place the youngest (most vulnerable) child in the center position.
A minivan like the Honda Odyssey makes this simpler. Thanks to its Magic Slide 2nd-Row Seats, Odyssey allows you to configure the middle row without uninstalling the car seat. You can even push the middle seats up for easier access to your lil’ bambino.
5. Poor Placement of Chest Clips
Most car seats have a harness that includes a plastic chest clip. Some parents overlook this tiny feature when buckling in their kids, even though it plays an important part in protecting the car seat’s occupant. The chest clip ensures the harness straps are correctly positioned as to avoid significant trauma to a child’s neck or stomach in a crash.
How to correct: Slide the chest clip to your infant’s chest, aligned to his or her armpits. If placed too high, the harness straps could cause a neck injury; placed too low, it could result in internal bleeding to intestines or other organs.
4. Loose or Tight Harness Straps
Children grow, sometimes seemingly overnight. Harness straps should be adjusted to keep pace with any growth spurts. If too tight, straps can cause more significant bone breaks or trauma in a crash. If too loose, you risk having your child slide into a poor position, which may force straps to cover his or her neck, arms, legs, or head rather than just the chest and shoulders.
How to correct: Check the harness height for signs of tightness every month. When you make any adjustments, be sure the harness straps aren’t too loose or too high above your child’s shoulders. It’s recommended that you leave no more than two inches of slack between the child’s body and the straps, though even less slack is recommended.
3. Not Removing Thick Coats
Although you don’t have to worry about thick winter coats here in South Florida, you should be aware of their risks as they pertain to child car seats. During a crash, bulky jackets will prevent harness straps from constricting safely and snuggly around a child’s body; instead, they secure around the jacket’s padding. In the event of a rollover, these loose straps may allow your child to slip right out of his or her winter coat.
How to correct: Always remove winter coats before fastening a child into their car seat. Anything thicker than a sweater, or anything with padded lining, should be removed.
2. Not Using the Right LATCH (Anchor)
Don’t just let your child’s car seat tethers dangle willy-nilly. Even if you believe you’ve snapped the seat in well, each of its tethers should be fastened to the proper anchors. Proper tether usage helps mitigate head injuries by reducing the risk of a car seat sliding or moving out of position in a crash.
How to correct: The most common mistake parents make is leaving the top tether of a forward-facing car seat unsecured. It should be hooked into your vehicle’s top anchor, which is usually located on the back of the seat (see the Honda CR-V image above). It’s easy to install, we promise.
1. Incorrect Installation
Do you use the LATCH anchors or seatbelt—or both? How much movement is too much movement? Is that recline angle on my infant car seat correct? What the heck do I do with this strap? We get it—it’s easier to score a perfect score on your SATs than it is to properly install a car seat. Even if you’ve installed a hundred of them, that 101st installation may not be a walk in the park.
How to correct: Many states, including Florida, have car seat installation centers with certified technicians available to help. Rather than running down the whole list of “car seat installation dos and don’ts,” here’s a simple solution: download the Safe Map app to view your area’s approved locations that will help you install a child’s restraint system or safety seat.
Correcting these common mistakes prior to setting off on your family trip should keep your mind at ease. However, if you need a little more inspired confidence, invest in a safer vehicle. Visit any of our South Florida Honda Dealers near Miami to view our selection of new and used Honda models, like the Odyssey, Pilot, or all-new Passport with standard Honda Sensing.
*Models tested with standard side airbags (SAB). Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) New Car Assessment Program (www.safercar.gov).
**Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ ratings awarded in recognition of models’ crash-safety performance. Applies to Honda trims with Honda Sensing(R) and specific headlights.
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