Parents Report: Common Car Seat Mistakes

Face Front

child next to car seat

Shannon Greer

Around age 2, your child has probably outgrown her infant seat, and she's ready for a forward-facing seat (or to turn her convertible seat around). One big difference you'll notice is that the forward-facing seat's LATCH attachments are toward the back of the seat instead of the front; there's also a top tether to hold the seat in place. (The anchor for the tether may be on the ceiling, floor, back dashboard, or seat back, depending on your car's design.) When your child faces forward, make sure the harness straps are at or above shoulder level to prevent her shoulders from jerking forward in a crash.

Common Mistakes

1. Turning the seat too early.
If you have a convertible seat, your child should ride rear facing until he's reached the maximum rear-facing limit of the seat (generally 30 to 35 pounds).

2. Not cinching the harness tightly.
The fit should be so snug that you can't slip a finger between your child's shoulder and the strap (or pinch the fabric of the straps).

3. Using the LATCH system and a seat belt.
You're not getting double the protection. "The two have never been tested together, and it's possible that using both could injure your child in an accident," says Walker.

4. Skipping the tether.
Fifty-five percent of parents make this dangerous mistake, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tether secures the top of the car seat so it's installed tightly enough.

5. Securing the chest clip in the wrong spot.
It should cross your child's chest at his armpit level. If it's too low, the straps might slip off; when it's too high, the clip could injure his neck.

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