The truth behind some of the most common car seat myths
With so much information available, it’s easy to get confused when you’re trying to do what’s best for your family. We’ve gathered some of the most common myths to help you get fact-checked and know the real truth!
In celebration of Safety Month and Child Passenger Safety Week we sat down with our very own CPST, Scott, to reveal the biggest, most common myths about car seat safety. To give you a clear understanding of the truth, Scott has put together some super handy advice that will help you to feel more confident when face-to-face with a potential myth.
In no particular order, let’s tackle the truth and start myth busting!
You can have your seat checked at a Fire Station or a Police Station.
While it’s true you can usually have a firefighter or police officer check your car seat, it’s important to make sure that person is a currently certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Don’t be bashful about asking to see their wallet card to make sure they’re current. Car seat technology changes rapidly and certified CPSTs are usually up to date on the latest changes. The best place to find a certified CPST near you is the Safe Kids web site:
If we get in a crash, my rear-facing child’s legs will get broken if their feet are touching the back of the vehicle seat or if their legs are bent.
Leg injuries for rear-facing children are very rare. There is no data to support this myth that a rear-facing child’s legs are more susceptible to injury in a crash. The most common type of crash is frontal and in this case a rear-facing child’s legs will fly up and away from the back seat. When a child is forward-facing the injury rate for lower extremities goes up because the legs are thrown forward in a frontal crash. The injuries are usually caused by the legs hitting the vehicle seat back in front of them or the center console. Remember, children are five times safer riding rear-facing because the head, neck and spinal cord are very well protected by a rear-facing car seat.
It’s ok to buy a used car seat.
Maybe yes, maybe no. If you’re considering buying a used car seat, make sure you know, and can verify, the history of the seat. If a car seat has been in a crash, there may not be any visual indication of damage. However, structural components could be damaged, and the harness system could be compromised. Even a minor crash can exert enough force on a car seat to render it unusable. If you can’t verify crash history, then don’t buy it. You’ll also want to make sure the seat isn’t expired and that there have been no recalls issued for the seat. Does it have the manual and all the parts and pieces? If not, take a pass and buy new. If you’re buying from a friend or family member and know for a fact it’s never been in a crash, isn’t expired and all the bits are there then it can be good way to save some money.
My rear-facing toddler looks really uncomfortable, so I need to turn them forward-facing.
What looks uncomfortable to an adult is usually just fine for a child. Remember, kids are a lot more flexible than us adults and they’ll find a way to get comfortable. Sitting criss-cross-applesauce, resting their feet on the vehicle seat back, or dangling their legs over the sides of the car seat are typical ways a rear-facing kid gets comfy. Riding rear-facing might even be more comfortable for them because their legs aren’t hanging over the front of the car seat. We recommend rear-facing until the weight limit of the car seat because it’s the safest way for them to ride.
My child has reached the minimum weight to sit in a booster so it’s time to switch.
Booster minimum weight requirements are just that…the minimum. Most children aren’t ready for a booster until they’re much older, and the five-point harness provides a lot more protection than the adult seat belt. It’s best to keep them in their car seat until they’ve reached the height or weight limit of the seat. When your child does get close to the limits and you start thinking about moving them to a booster, you’ll need to consider their maturity level. Can they sit properly in the booster for the entire trip? This means no slouching, no leaning over, no playing with the seat belt or moving it out of position. If they’re not mature enough then keep them in the five-point harness for a little while longer. Remember that any move “up” in car seats is a move “down” in safety.
LATCH installation is safer than using the seat belt.
The truth is that neither one is safer than the other. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren and was designed to make it easier for caregivers to install car seats, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice. You should choose the installation method that gives you the best installation. A properly installed car seat will not move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back when checked at the belt path being used. If you can’t get a tight fit using LATCH, a seat belt installation may be better. The one part of the LATCH system that should always be used is the top tether, as long as your car is equipped with a top tether anchor, which it should be. Top tether use can reduce the distance your forward-facing child’s head travels in a frontal crash by up to six inches. This can prevent their head from hitting the back of the vehicle seat in front of them and causing serious injury. In the US, you’ll have to switch to a seat belt installation if the combined weight of your child and car seat weighs more than 65 pounds.