Mistakes Parents Often Make
The Top Ten Mistakes Parents Make with Child Safety in Vehicles Reprinted with Permission from the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition
Parents don't expose their children to unnecessary dangers willingly, but the demands on their time and attention may allow distractions and mistakes that can leave a child vulnerable.
Read over this list and see how well you are doing in avoiding mistakes that could endanger your child.
- Failing to use safety seats. As incredible as it seems, some parents don’t secure their children in child safety seats or seat belts. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer and disabler of children. In Oklahoma, only about 78% of children under age 5 are buckled up safely. Here’s an equation for you: Speed x Weight = Force.
- Facing infants forward before they weigh 20 pounds or reach 12 months of age. Since most infants reach 20 pounds before reaching 12 months of age, consider buying rear-facing safety seats that are certified up to 30-35 pounds.
- Not using, or misusing, locking clips. The locking clip is that little silver “I” shaped buckle that comes with every safety seat. Using a locking clip can make a critical difference in a serious crash because they allow for less slack in the seat belt. They should be placed within one inch of the buckle – NEVER on the side of the child safety seat opposite from the buckle.
- Parents allowing children to ride in the front seat. Air bags are not safe for children. It is estimated that 75 children nationwide have been killed by deploying air bags. Most of these children were either unrestrained or improperly restrained. If you must transport children in the front seat, have an on-off switch installed so that the air bag can be turned off when the child is in the seat. Even without air bags, the back seat is 26% safer than the front seat.
- Failure to use harness straps and/or retainer clip properly. Harness straps should be at or below shoulder level for rear-facing seats, in the upper slots for forward-facing seats and snug enough that only one finger can be placed between the strap and the child’s collarbone.
- Failure to buckle the safety seat into the vehicle, or failure to buckle them in tightly enough. When properly secured, a child safety seat should not more than one inch from side to side when pulled near the seat belt path. Never place a child in a safety seat that is not securely fastened by a seat belt.
- Purchasing a safety seat that is not compatible with their vehicle or the seats of their vehicle. This is often a matter of trial and error, so make sure your purchase can be returned if is doesn’t fit your vehicle. Check the vehicle owner’s manual for information on buying safety seats that will fit.
- Moving children into inappropriate safety seats too early. Children should stay in a toddler seat until they weigh 40 pounds or more; in a booster seat until between 60-80 pounds or until a seat belt fits them properly. If the shoulder belt crosses their neck and the lap belt rides high on their abdomen, they can cause serious consequences in a crash.
- Using an unsafe or recalled safety seat. Manufacturers will repair or replace recalled safety seats – if they can find you. By filling out and returning the registration card when you buy a new safety seat, you ensure that you will be notified of any recalls. The current recall list can be found on the NHTSA website at www.nhtsa.doc.gov.
- Failure to use seat belts EVERY time they drive. Some people only buckle up when they are on the highway or for long trips. Most crashes happen close to home and at speeds less than 45 mph.
A 20 pound baby in a 20-mph crash will be thrown with a force of 400 pounds – the equivalent of dropping the baby from a three-story building.
The retainer clip (that little plastic piece that holds the straps together) should be at armpit level. If too low across the chest, children may be ejected during crashes.
Don’t use a safety seat that was obtained at a garage sale or thrift shop without first checking on any recalls of that model. Be alert to any missing critical parts or damage.
Insurance companies should be asked to replace safety seats and repair seat belts after any serious crashes.