Car seat safety: Avoid 7 common mistakes

Car Seat Safety

These are some common mistakes parents are guilty of making.

1. Not doing your research before buying a used car seat

    Before you buy one, do your research on Singapore’s regulations for car seats so that you do not buy an unsuitable one.

    You should make sure the used car seat:

    • Comes with instructions and a label showing the manufacture date and model number
    • Hasn't been recalled by manufacturer
    • Is no older than 4 years old
    • Has no visible damage or missing parts
    • Has never been involved in an accident of any sort, even minor

    For a more comprehensive guide, check out our article on 7 Important Tips for Buying a Used Car Seat.

    2. Incorrectly installing the car seat or buckling up your child

    If you're using an infant-only seat or a convertible seat in the rear-facing position, keep these tips in mind:

    Use the harness slots described in the car seat's instruction manual, usually those at or below the child's shoulders. Place the harness straps over your child's shoulders.

    Buckle the harness straps and chest clip, with the chest clip even with your child's armpits. Make sure the straps and clip lie flat against your child's chest and over his or her hips with no slack. If necessary, place tightly rolled small blankets alongside your baby or rolled washcloths between the crotch strap and your baby to create a secure fit.

    3. Reclining your child at the incorrect angle

    A number of studies have shown that an incorrect angle of recline can lead to injury to babies, especially if too upright, as the baby’s head can flop forward and obstruct the airway. Babies must ride semi-reclined to keep their airways open.

    Many seats include angle indicators or adjusters to guide you. Keep in mind that as your child grows, you might need to adjust the angle. Check the manufacturer's instructions for details.

    4. Putting Your Child in a Car Seat with a Winter Jacket

    A TODAY show segment compares a normal crash test dummy with one wearing a puffy coat—and the results are terrifying.

    The crash test “baby” wearing normal clothes stays in its car seat after a collision. The one wearing a big winter coat, didn’t fare so well though. That dummy went flying out of its seat, leaving its puffy jacket behind.

    To test if your kid’s coat is too bulky, strap your baby into the car seat, coat and all. Unstrap—but don’t loosen—the harness, then take your kid’s coat off. When you strap your child back in jacket-free, you shouldn’t be able to pinch the strap. If you can, your kid wouldn’t be secure wearing that puffer jacket.

    5. Moving to a booster seat too soon

    Nine out of 10 parents of children ages 4 to 10 surveyed recently were found to have moved their children out of the booster seat before they were big enough. Booster seat use has been shown to reduce the risk of serious injury.

    Older children need booster seats to help an adult safety belt fit correctly. You can switch from a car seat to a booster seat when your child has topped the highest weight — typically 40 to 80 pounds (18 to 36 kilograms) — or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

    Remember, however, that your child is safest remaining in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible.

    6. Incorrectly using a booster seat

    Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt — never a lap-only belt. Make sure the lap belt lies low and snug across your child's upper thighs and that the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child's chest and shoulder.

    7. Transitioning to a safety belt too soon

    Most kids can safely use an adult seat belt sometime between ages 8 and 12. Here's how you'll know that your child is ready:

    • Your child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches (nearly 1.5 meters).
    • Your child sits against the back of the seat with his or her knees bent comfortably at the edge of the seat — and can remain that way for the entire trip.
    • The lap belt rests flat and snugly across your child's upper thighs, and the shoulder belt rests on the middle of your child's chest and shoulder — not on the neck or face.
    • Make sure your child doesn't tuck the shoulder belt under his or her arm or behind his or her back. Remember, the back seat is the safest place for children younger than age 13.

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