5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Installing Car Seats

Sep 20, 2018, 8:21 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Only 6 out of 10 parents install car seats correctly and only 20 percent read the instructions beforehand, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Hanna Kunkes always makes sure her youngest, Kaia Murphy, is buckled in her booster seat before karate practice. She knows all too well the benefits of buckling up.

In 2011, Kunkes was in a terrible crash with her 3-year-old and 11-month-old baby.

“I did not know where I was or what was happening. I was just like, ‘Where are my kids?’” Kunkes recalled.

Her oldest daughter, Braelynn Murphy, remembers the experience.

“It was super scary!” she said.

Kunkes credits their lives to car seats.

“Firefighters just unbuckled their car seats and moved them in their car seats into the fire truck,” she explained.

Simply using a car seat isn’t always enough. Keri Gibson, a child passenger safety instructor at the Utah Department of Public Safety, said parents often don’t use car seats the right way.

“Parents might think that they’re small, but they can actually result in severe injury or even death,” she said.

Keri Gibson with the Utah Department of Public Safety encourages parents make sure their child’s seats are properly installed.

Gibson said the most five common errors include:

  1. The harness shoulder strap is in the wrong place. If the child is rear facing it should originate at or below the child’s shoulders. If the child is front facing it should originate at or above the child’s shoulders.
  2. The harness chest clip is too low. It should be armpit level.
  3. The child safety seat is too loose. It should not move side-to-side or front-to-back.
  4. The harness strap is too loose. It should fit snug and tight.
  5. The lap and shoulder belt are improperly placed for children in booster seats. It should fit over the stronger parts of a child’s body.

Gibson also encourages parents to make sure the car seat is facing the right direction.

“We want to make sure that those children remain rear facing as long as that seat allows,” she said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety said only six out of ten parents install car seats correctly and only twenty percent read the instructions beforehand.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendation encouraging children to remain in a car seat until they reach the seat’s weight and height limit rather than the previous recommendation of simply turning 2 years old.

Gibson urges parents to check the seat’s instruction manual before transitioning to a new car seat.

“I don’t know what it would be like to gotten hurt or lost my life, or even lost my little sister. As much as she’s annoying, I love her so much and I’m grateful,” Braelynn Murphy said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety is hosting car seat checkpoint stations across the state next week for Child Passenger Safety Week during September 23-29. Safety experts invite parents to have their child’s car seat inspected and to learn how to buckle their kids the right way.

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5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Installing Car Seats