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Deadly Car Seat Mistakes

Car-seat safety guide: Is your child's car seat as safe as you think?

A car safety seat can make the difference between life and death in an accident. Yet, it is estimated that more than 70 percent of young automobile passengers are exposed to potentially fatal consequences because they're no properly strapped in. Check out this lifesaving safety guide and find out if you're making the common mistakes parents make when placing their child in a car seat.

Common Car Seat Mistake #1:

Not installing the seat correctly.

A car seat works best when it is secured so tight to the backseat where all car seats belong that it effectively becomes part of the car's structure. Here's how to check if the seat's secure: It should not move more than an inch when you shake it from side to side or pull it forward. To get a tight fit, put your knees into the seat and press your weight into it while cinching down the vehicle's safety belt or the LATCH tether straps. LATCH refers to Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, a safety system that you can use to secure your car seat instead of safety belts. It's available on cars made after 2002.

Common Car Seat Mistake #2:

Not tightly strapping in your child.

Sometimes, parents loosen the straps thinking their child will be more comfortable. But it's critical that your child is always snugly strapped in and the harness should fit tightly. (If you can pinch a fold in the straps, it's too loose.)

For rear-facing seats, check that the harness straps are positioned at or below your baby's shoulders. The top of the harness clip should be at armpit level, and the harness should lie flat. For forward-facing seats, the harness straps should rest at or above shoulder level.

Common Car Seat Mistake #3:

Turning the seat around too soon.

Many parents like to see their baby in the rearview mirror, but experts warn that turning the seat too soon can be a dangerous mistake. This is because young babies are especially vulnerable to head and spine injuries if their car seat isn't facing toward the back.

From birth until at least a year old and 20 pounds, the rear-facing position offers the best protection for your baby's head, neck and spine. Even when your child has turned 1, keep him rear-facing until he has reached the upper weight limit or the top of his head is less than an inch from the top of the head.

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