I have gone round and round in my head with this exact issue and today, it was confirmed to me in an email The Baby Center. The article is entitled "Car Seat Safety: The Biggest Mistakes Parents Make and How to Avoid Them." I'm going to cut and paste. Then I'm going to make sure that my THREE babies are safe in every vehicle they get in.
Using an old or secondhand seat
That safety seat you scored at a garage sale for a fraction of its original price may seem like a bargain, but it could cost your child his life. The same goes for that older-model seat your sister gave you after her child outgrew it.
Not only are used seats unlikely to come with the manufacturer's instructions (vital for correct installation), but they could be missing important parts, have been involved in an accident (even unseen damage can affect the seat's functioning), fall short of current safety standards, or have been recalled due to faulty design. Moreover, plastic gets brittle as it gets older, so a seat that's too old could break in a crash.
If you must use a secondhand seat, make sure it has the original instructions (or contact the manufacturer for a replacement copy), has all its parts (check the manual), has never been involved in a serious accident, and hasn't been recalled. (Check your seat's recall status here.)
In addition, to avoid the dangers of aging plastic, SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. recommends sticking with car seats that are ideally less than five years old and definitely less than ten years old. You can usually find an expiration date stamped somewhere on the seat.
***NOTE TO SELF: All old car seats are a gonner. I think there might be only 1 of the 4 that Bailey rides in that fits into this category and none of the 2 that we have for the new babies. One infant seat that we used with Bailey we bought from a dentist's wife here in town and know them. The one that I have a problem with is just expired. I wouldn't give my daughter expired milk so I'm certainly not going to promote an expired car seat.
Turning your child to face forward too soon
Children have large heads and comparatively weak necks, so in a head-on collision (the most common type of crash) a child's head can jerk forward suddenly and violently, resulting in spinal injuries. For this reason, keep your child rear-facing position as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 2, or until he reaches the seat's maximum rear-facing height and weight limits.
**This is the one that I struggle with. Bailey stayed rear facing until she was 1, but she was a terrible rider and did much better when she could see out. I didn't feel like a bad mom for turing her. Shortly after we turned her, the new recommendations came out. I have read comments online for parents that do not promote prolonged rear-facing and they always say something about comfort (just like I did). I get it that it's safer and that they are more likely to be injured, I certainly don't want my babies injured. And maybe I'll be a little more strict with these next two, especially since there is a new recommendation, but sometimes I feel that as a parent, you just have to make the best decision that you know how based on your child and what works.
Moving your child out of his car seat or booster too soon
Though safety-seat laws vary from state to state, all require that children under age 3 ride in a safety seat. Experts are unequivocal in their recommendations for safe riding beyond that age:
Your child should ride in a safety seat with a five-point harness until he weighs at least 40 pounds, or until his shoulders no longer fit under the harness straps. You can use a convertible rear- and forward-facing car seat until your child hits 40 pounds, or the harness system of a car-and-booster-seat combo from as little as 20 pounds up to 40 pounds.
Your child should ride in a booster seat from the time he weighs 40 pounds and is at least 3 years old until he's 4 feet 9 inches tall and at least 8 years old.
**I do personally feel like children should stay in their car seat until they are 3 or older. I do not think that some 3 year olds are ready for booster seats. I don't feel like Bailey will be ready for a booster seat by December. I do think that children should ride in a high back booster until the seat belt fits in the right spot. But 8??? I just don't see 2nd and 3rd graders getting dropped off and picked up from school riding in their booster seats. I might feel different when I actually have an 8 year old, but not right now.
Not installing a safety seat correctly
**I'm not even going to cut and paste what it says about this one. Bottom line, my thought is that if you do not know how or think you know how to correctly install the car seat, take it to someone who does. BOTTOM LINE!!
Not securing your child in the seat
To make sure the car seat harness straps are snug enough to hold your child firmly in the event of an accident:
Buckle your child in, making sure the harness straps aren't twisted, and then use the mechanism on the front of the car seat to pull the harness tight. You shouldn't be able to pinch any harness fabric between your fingers.
Slide the plastic retainer clip that holds the two straps together up to armpit level before securing it. If the clip is too low, your child could be ejected from his seat in a crash.
**My mom always says we don't have Bailey's straps right, so this one was for you Mom!
Not Buckling a Car Seat Into the Car
**Not going to waste and cut and paste on this one either. All I'm going to say is REALLY? You'd go to the trouble of car seat and buckling a baby in the seat, but not attaching the seat to the car?? REALLY??
The rest of the article talks about letting your child ride in the front seat and not buckling them at all. Do we do what we have to do as parents?? Absolutely. I can remember long rides home from Alabama with just my screaming princess and me. I remember crying myself, thinking, dear Lord, we have a long way to go and I'm gonna have a nervous breakdown. We'd make the exit off of the interstate for the even longer back road to the house, and that infant seat would get strapped as tight as it could next to me up front. I couldn't help it. We certainly weren't going to make it safely with all that screaming. Now we just take the train. Haha! Kidding. Sort of! It is tons easier, but more costly. And not an option for going everywhere. But I just put these here so we'd be reminded to protect our precious cargo as best we could.
After all, we only get one change at doing the right thing with them!
What are your thoughts??
Much Love, Barbie