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Summer vacations create lifelong memories for our kids. Traveling with children does, however, require extra precautions, especially when it comes to ensuring that your child is safe in their car seat. So we compiled the top ten car seat mistakes parents make — we want you to be smiling and happy in all your vacation photos!

Top 8 Car Seat Mistakes

Incorrect positioning. Infants should always be rear-facing and in the back seat – no exceptions. Their tiny bones can better absorb the force of a crash in that position, and their heads are less likely to flop forward and cause major spinal injuries.

Incorrect installation. Correctly installing a car seat is trickier than just following the instructions. In fact, it’s estimated that 85 percent of car seats aren’t as secure or safe as they should be. It’s an easy, free fix: Have your car seat professionally installed or checked at a local police station or highway patrol unit.

Turning the seat around too early. Car seats should be rear-facing for as long as possible – definitely until the baby is 20 pounds. After that, try not to swing them around until they reach the maximum length and weight limit, usually closer to the 2-year mark.

Bundling them in thick padding. Using an additional car seat cushion or a bulky coat (which could also cause overheating!) prevents the baby from being as tightly fit as possible.

The seat is too loose. There should be less than an inch of movement when you rock the car seat back and forth. If you’re having a hard time, use your knee to hold it as firmly as possible to the back seat, and then tighten the straps. Once you’re done, go and have it professionally checked because it’s probably still not tight enough.

The baby isn’t strapped in correctly. It’s not as simple as just clicking the buckle. Make sure the harness straps are thread through the slot that’s at or below the baby’s shoulders for maximum security and that there’s no slack whatsoever. You shouldn’t be able to pinch the strap when it’s tightened to your baby.

The retainer clip isn’t positioned correctly. The retainer should be centered across your baby’s chest at armpit level.

The wrong anchor is used. Check that your car has a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which means you can attach the car seat to metal rings behind the rear seat cushion for a tighter fit. Most cars made after 2003 are equipped with a LATCH system, but some only have the anchors for the window seat. The car seat is safest in the middle, so use the seat belt if there aren’t center anchors.


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