More than 70% of child safety restraints in the United States are installed or used incorrectly. The most common mistake is making sure you know the right way to face the seat. This is also the most dangerous mistake a parent can make when it comes to car seat safety. Kids should remain rear-facing to a minimum of two years old, regardless of height or weight, and should continue to rear-face until they outgrow the seat in that mode. Children’s vertebrae are not fused until well into early childhood and this makes them prone to serious injury or even death if involved in an accident. Basically, if the crash could result in whiplash in an adult, it could kill a small child. Rear-facing provides more support to the child's neck during the initial impact. For children under two years, rear facing is more than 500% safer than forward facing. Car seats definitely have expiration dates. Check the back or bottom of the seat for a label stating the date of manufacture. Most seats expire six years after the date of manufacture. Once expired, a child seat must be destroyed and thrown away. Never sell it, give it away, or leave it on the curb. Using an expired or recalled seat is also a commonly made mistake. The latch (lower anchors and tethers for children) system is available in all passenger vehicles. Its purpose is to make it easier to install car seats correctly.
When installing your car seat:
1. Be sure you know how the harness system works. You can tighten and loosen the straps around your baby with the harness adjustment lever.
2. Adjust the harnesses to make them snug. If you can pinch any of the harness material between your fingers, it's too loose.
3. The straps should always lie flat. Straighten them out if they become twisted. 4. After you buckle your child in, tug on the straps to make sure they're secure. For information on how to install a car seat and where you can find a safety technician in your area, please visit chp.ca.gov.