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5 Common Car Seat Errors – That Any Parent Can Make.

Got kids in Car Seats?

Raise your hand if you’ve struggled to install a car seat correctly (raises hand….). According to the NHTSA, over half of all car seats are installed incorrectly. Truth? It can happen to anyone.

So, with back to school, now’s a great time to double-check your car seat settings and make sure you’re not making any of these 5 most common errors.

(plus, see below for the car seat trade-in going on now).

  • Turning to face forward too quickly
    • Baby seems uncomfortable with his legs bent – right? Resist the urge to turn quickly, as baby’s spine, legs, and head are actually at much lower risk of injury when facing backwards. In fact, come European countries recommend keeping rear-facing until 4 years old!  
    • Rule of thumb – keep kiddo facing backwards until around 2 years old. Check your own car seat, and see what the maximum height and weight is to stay rear-facing – they’ll be safest traveling that way.
  • Skipping the tether strap.
    • Once your kiddo is facing forward, it’s absolutely NECESSARY to use the tether strap (which connects the back of the car seat to the vehicle).
    • That keeps the car seat from flipping forward in an accident. Without it, a child’s head could move by an extra 6 inches.
    • Most new cars now have a small bar either on the back of the seats, or on the vehicle wall (see an example here at NHTSA)
  • Having the restraints too loose
    • Keep those restraints snug! You should be able to slide a single finger under the restraints at the level of the collarbone, just under the width of two fingers.
    • Make sure baby isn’t wearing any coat or anything bulky that could keep the straps from being sufficiently snug.
  • Keeping a car seat too long
    • Car seats have expiration dates - usually around 6-8 years. That’s why it’s not a great item to get as a hand-me-down, if it’s been in circulation for multiple children. Also, a seat should be replaced after an accident, due to the possibility of micro-damage.
    • To be certain about any recalls, make sure to register your car seat with the manufacturer (even if you didn’t do this when you purchased, you can likely go register now, to be sure that you don’t miss any important safety information).
    • Want a new car seat? Target has their car seat trade from September 11-23, 2022, and Walmart hosts their own trade-in (although their exact dates have not yet been posted).
  • Not securing OTHER passengers.
    • You may think about your baby – but what about another parent or grandparent also in the car? An unbuckled adult is an uncontrolled missile in an accident: if an adult is riding without a buckle, OTHER people in the car are 3-4x more likely to die in a crash because of being hit and injured by the adult. So, make sure that EVERYONE is buckled up!

With just a few tweaks, you can make sure that everyone is safe in the car. Now if it were only so easy to keep cheerios from getting into every crevice…..

All my best,

Dr. Darria


Dr. Darria is a Yale and Harvard-trained emergency room doctor, national TV health contributor, and national bestselling author of Mom Hacks. She’s also the founder of Trueve,  your source for evidence-based women’s and children’s health information – because you deserve honest, accurate health information, and the peace of mind that comes with it.  

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