6 Car Seat Mistakes Parents Don't Realize They're Making


No matter how much effort car seat technicians and organizations like Safe Kids try to get good information out there, study results come out saying things like "at least 80 percent of car seats are used incorrectly."

The biggest problems are usually the straps being too loose, an incorrect installation, or the child is in the wrong seat for their age and/or size. But car seats are serious business and it's the ONLY piece of baby equipment that you absolutely are required by law to have to save your baby's life. So we have to be serious about using them correctly. Anyone who has a child should read this because there are some really big car seat mistakes parents don't realize they are making. I'm going to address those mistakes and share a solution.

Problem 1: Grandma placed baby in infant seat, and the seatbelt was fastened over the child and seat. The harness was not used.

Solution: You can't trust other people to know exactly how to install your seat, so before you let anyone take your precious cargo, make them demonstrate perfect use. You must use the harness on the seat 100 percent of the time, and install the seat correctly every single time. No exceptions.

Problem 2: Infant seats installed forward-facing, sometimes in the front seat of a truck.

Solution: They do NOT go that way, no matter what, ever. Yes, rear-facing seats are more dangerous in front of an airbag, but that's why in order to put a child in the front, the airbag must be disabled. Turning the seat forward-facing and rigging some half-assed install doesn't make them safer. 

Problem 3: Dad pulled into a car seat check (yay Dad!) and techs found his full toolbox, including even a hatchet and crowbar, unrestrained in the back of the car.

Solution: Secure loose items! Do you know what would happen in an accident? Flying hatch = dead people. A 5-pound item in a 25-mile-per-hour accident flies with 125 pounds of force. Would you throw that on top of your child?

Problem 4: Infants in forward-facing seats.

Solution: Just don't do it, ever. It's illegal. Forward-facing seats are intended for children ages two and up, one year old at the BARE minimum, though it's still not wise to flip them yet and can cost them their life.

Problem 5: Driving through a parking lot with a baby on passenger's lap.

Solution: It doesn't matter if it's across the parking lot or across the highway -- your child always needed to be 100 percent securely in their seat if the car is moving, period. Besides, if you got hit going only 15 miles per hour and your baby's head hit the dashboard, that is the equivalent of dropping them off the top of a 7 1/2-foot ladder onto their head. They can die. If you don't want to buckle them in for such a quick trip, walk across the parking lot.

Problem 6: Seat installed with anything other than the seatbelt or LATCH.

Solution: I almost fainted when a friend told me her seat was installed with zipties. Folks, if you can't do it RIGHT, you need to fix something. Part of being a parent means you have to make some sacrifices. If your car can't fit kids safely, you HAVE to get a new car. Never attach anything to a seat that it didn't come with, and never try to "rig" a seat to make it work. It either works perfectly or not at all.


Car seats are really complicated. Even the most car seat safety-conscious people sometimes still make mistakes, and often show all new installs to fellow advocates or technicians to make sure there isn't something they missed. Check out a Safe Kids car seat check near you every time you move your seat or get a new one. Your child's life depends on it. If something doesn't seem right, chances are it's NOT. Don't gamble on it.

If you accidentally did any of these things in the past, will you now make the changes to make sure your child's car seat is safe?


For more information, check out some of my past car seat safety posts:

7 Rules for Buying & Installing a Car Seat

9 Lifesaving Car Seat Rules You're Probably Ignoring

Rear-Facing Car Seats Aren't Just for Babies Anymore

7 Car Seat Safety Rules You Still May Have Missed

Booster Seat Safety: Most Moms Know Nothing

Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom

baby gear, car seat safety, safety


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Shanin22 Shanin22

Several years ago my husband and I went to pick up a friend and her newborn from the hospital (since it was winter and their car heater was out). Her idiot husband forgot the base to the infant seat (and this seat was made to ONLY be installed with the base). He wanted to rig it in my car with a seatbelt and some jackets! I told him to find another ride, lol. There's still hurt feelings about that one... but no child rides in my car unless properly secured in a car seat... even if it's not my child.

mtnma... mtnmama111

my 7 and 9 yos still use booster seats- unlike any of their friends!!! because neither of them is anywhere near 80 pounds... they like them- it helps them to see and I think it is the reason they haven't been hit by car sickness like I was at their age.

lovin... lovinangels

I have to check on my husband's tools...

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

You know, I just read a big to-do post about a woman who reported a family for not having any of their children sitting in car-seats, and the mother holding an infant on her lap. What worried me most is the mothers that defended the action by saying, "What if they cannot afford a new car or the seats."


If you cannot travel safely- YOU SHOULD NOT TRAVEL. Plain and simple. Your children's lives are TOO precious for this to be an excuse.

Heather Ross

The other night my husband, our 1 month old and I went to Babies R Us, and afterward decided to pop into Best Buy. The two stores are across the parking lot from each other, so I had to drive two parking lot lengths.

My husband says "we have to buckle him in and make him mad just to get the car to that distance?" I was just waiting for him to suggest something stupid when he pulled a much heavier blanket out of the van and said "It's not worth it. We will meet you over there and he started walking. WTG dad!

Maegan Bledsoe

HistoryMama - and many people don't realize they can easily get a free carseat from their local county officials.  You might have to check around...but my county sheriff provided us with an appropriate car seat, properly installed it, then took it out & made me install it myself so they knew I knew how to install it.  I did have to call to provide some info, like the weight & age of my child.  But there was not an income check or anything...They keep a few on hand, but the one I went to was going shopping for them a few days after I called to ask about it...so they knew my needs & picked out a carseat just for my child...that would last her a while. 

angev... angevil53

most firestations or sheriff's dept's can help you install your seat before your baby is born and give you pointers on installing on your, sometimes nurses or install tech's are available at the hospital

nonmember avatar mommasboys

"Forward-facing seats are intended for children ages two and up"
Sorry, but I take exception to that. I just bought a new forward facing seat today and it clearly states "for use with children at least one year old and at least 22 pounds" There have been some studies that show that there COULD be advantages to leaving a child rear facing until the age of 2, but it's still not a requirement in most states.Right now it's a parents decision, and one they should not be criticized or condemned for.

nonmember avatar MamaG

mommasboy- Just because it is not the law doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do...Times they are a changing... Check out the AAP updated guidelines or any child safety seat tech and see what they say...I wouldn't depend on manufacturers to give you the BEST advice... I bet it won't be long and those that make the seats will be singing a different tune....

Besides she did say 1 year and 20# at the bare minimum

Beside she did say 1 yr and 20lbs at the minimum...

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