FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Many kids begin heading back to school this month, but most parents are not thinking about those child car seats. There are several common mistakes that parents make when it comes to car seat safety, and some of them might be surprising.
Sgt. Lonny Haschel with the Texas Department of Public Safety is a child passenger safety instructor, and often performs seat checks at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. He listed some of the biggest mistakes that many parents make when it comes to car seats.
1. The harness straps are too loose and, when rear-facing, need to be at the child’s shoulder or lower. “The harness straps need to be tight enough that you can’t pinch the webbing. If you can double that up, that’s too loose,” Haschel explained. “If you can run your fingers where it doesn’t come together, that’s perfect.”
2. The car seat is not installed tight enough. “It’s important that the children be in the car seat installed properly, tight enough where you can’t move it,” Haschel said.
3. You have the wrong car seat, because the child is either too heavy or too tall. “Parents don’t realize they have to really watch the weight on the side of the child restraint,” Haschel said. Kids can only be in an infant-sized seat for so long before switching to the next step, a convertible seat that can face both backward and forward.
4. You changed the car seat so that your child can face forward. “You absolutely can switch the kids to forward-facing, but you want to keep them backwards as long as you can,” Haschel explained. “Your car seat works like a baseball glove. It protects the child’s head, neck and spine. Keep them backwards as long as you can. Let the neck muscles grow.”
Children must be 2 years old to face the front, or meet the weight and height requirements of the particular car seat.
“One common thing that we run across that parents are concerned with are feet,” Haschel added. “They’re worried about their kid’s feet touching the back. So, we tell parents to teach their kids to sit criss-cross applesauce. That’ll fix the problem and you can use your child restraint to the maximum allowed by the car seat.”
5. Non-regulated products — like head positioners, backseat mirrors, seat protectors and pull-down window shades — are not a good idea. If you are in a car crash, those things could the child. “If you’re using something that didn’t come with the car seat or the child restraint,” Haschel stated, “it could cause the child restraint to perform differently than it was designed to in those federally mandated crash tests.”
Also, if you have figured out how to properly fit the child car seat into one vehicle, but it does not work in another vehicle, read the owner’s manuals that came with the car and the car seat. Click here for more information about child car safety.
Haschel offered another safety tip unrelated to car seats. “Anything in the back of your vehicle, especially in an SUV, that’s not tied down can become a projectile,” he said. If an SUV gets rear-ended by a smaller vehicle, it could push loose items — diaper bags, strollers and more — forward into the air, hitting passengers.
Parents are encouraged to get cargo tie-down devices from car dealers to hold items securely in place.
There will be a big car seat safety check event on Friday, August 28 at the Northeast Mall’s Firestone Auto Care location. This is happening from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at 1233 Melbourne Road in Hurst. Parents are encouraged to come and learn more about car seat safety.
Cook Children’s Medical Center is pushing for increased awareness of this issue after three deaths this month concerning kids who were not properly restrained in their car seats.
Carol Childress swears by these car seat safety checks. Worried about what might happen to her 3-year-old grandson, she sent her daughter to get the child’s car seat checked out. About six months later, they were involved in an automobile crash. “It did save his life. I believe it,” Childress said. “Tthe seat belt was installed properly. It was tight. It was all the things that they teach you that you may not think about.”
Haschel warned, “Small mistakes can equate out to bigger things in a car crash.”