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Rant From a Carseat Safety Guru { 5 Common Misconceptions } - The Snap Mom

Rant From a Carseat Safety Guru { 5 Common Misconceptions }

This article comes to us from Lara Costa! Carseat safety is something we all need brush up on now and then! Enjoy! 
And so begins the rant…
In honor of National Child Passenger Safety week (September 15-21, 2013), I’d like to dispel some of the most common misconceptions I encounter as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). Let me start by saying that Safe Kids Worldwide, the certifying body for CPST’s, estimates that 75% of child restraints are installed incorrectly or being used incorrectly. In my experience, it is far closer to 90%. Before I became certified as a technician, I thought I knew what I was doing with my car seats. I read my manuals (vehicle and car seat), I was up to date on the latest and greatest. Surely, if anyone had correctly installed child restraints, I did.

But I didn’t.

The thing is, most of the errors I encounter aren’t huge, glaring mistakes. They are simple and easy to miss…if you don’t know what to look for. That is why it is so important to have a certified CPST check your seats, even if it’s your fifth child, even if you’re certain you have everything correct. Chances are, you don’t. I’m not saying this to be demeaning or belittling, but I was once that confident parent with incorrectly installed seats.

5 Common Misconceptions

1) Your one-year-old is not ready to be turned forward-facing.

I know, I know. Florida law says at one year and 20 pounds, a child is ready to turn forward-facing. That’s like saying a newly licensed 16-year-old is ready to drive a Lamborghini. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends your child stays rear-facing until AT LEAST the age of two, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends you keep your child rear-facing as close to the age of four (yes, four), as possible. While different child restraints have different height and weight requirements, these recommendations have less to do with size and more to do with skeletal maturity. Just because a 16 month-old could meet the height and weight requirements to sit forward-facing in a particular seat does not mean his or her skeleton has the structural integrity to withstand the increased forces that he or she would encounter in a crash while forward-facing. Don’t believe me? Go to YouTube and check out videos of crash tests.

2) Your 4 year-old probably is not ready for a booster seat.

Suspend your thoughts about age and height/weight requirements for a few minutes. Booster seats are all about proper fit and and the maturity of your child. The 5 Step Test is the best way to determine if your child is ready for a booster seat. There are many combination seats on the market that will seat your child forward-facing in a harness and then convert to a high-backed booster seat. There is nothing wrong with a 6 year-old in a 5-point harness. For an explanation of the 5 Step Test, check out this link:

3) The “safest seat” does not exist.

There is no directly proportional relationship between cost of seat and safety of seat. The $99 seat is just as safe as the $299 seat. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? All seats sold in the United States go through the same testing, pass or fail. If it is being sold, it passed. Any claims made by the manufacturer are just that, claims. Only one company releases its own crash testing data, and that is DionoThe safest seat is the one that fits you child, your vehicle, and your budget, and that you can use correctly 100% of the time. It really is that simple.

4) Your pediatrician doesn’t know best.

At least not about car seats. Talk to your pediatrician about ear infections and growth charts. Talk to a CPST about your car seats. CPST’s take an intensive week-long course and have to re-certify every two-years, meeting requirements for number of seat checks performed, types of seat checks performed, community outreach, and continuing education credits. Not to mention, most CPST are OBSESSED with car seats. Most of us go far above the minimum to stay current on all of the newest technology and recommendations. And while we are talking about experts, call a fireman when your house is on fire, not when you need your car seat installed. The vast majority of firefighters and police officers are not trained to install a car seat. There are some CPST’s on staff for both departments, but the likelihood of walking in to a random fire house and finding a CPST is about as high as you finding a bag of cash under a park bench.

5) Installation isn’t always intuitive.

Read your manuals. Car seat and vehicle. Cover to cover. This isn’t a time to just “wing it”. When I’m doing a car seat check, before I even touch a seat, I read the manuals. As a CPST, I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know where to find them, more time than not, it’s in the manual. When it isn’t in the manual, or the vehicle manual has conflicting information, call the manufacturer.

Oh yeah, the expiration date on your car seat isn’t part of some government conspiracy. They actually do expire. Believe me, I love a good conspiracy theory, but this isn’t one of them. Most car seats are comprised from mostly plastic and foam. Put a plastic lawn chair in your back yard for a few years and see how that holds up to the heat/cold.
The moral of the story is to contact a CPST and have them check your seats. We’re here to help you keep your child as safe as possible while in a vehicle. I know car seat safety isn’t nearly as sexy as topics like the vaccination debate, cloth versus disposable, or un-schooling versus public schools, but vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for ages 1-24. I can’t say how many of those are related to being improperly restrained, but why take the risk?


  • The Diono Radian family of car seats are the only convertible+booster seats with a full steel frame making them one of the safest car seats available today
  • Rear facing 5 to 45 pounds. Forward facing 20-80 pounds (up to 57″) in 5-point harness. Booster to 120 pounds
  • Infant body support cushions and memory foam for added comfort
  • Adjustable headrest with reinforced sidewalls
  • Lined with EPS foam and energy-absorbing harness system for added safety
  • Folds flat for travel and fits 3 across in mid-sized vehicles

For shopping cart safety click {HERE}




  1. […] Car seat safety is one of the many many things all parents should be knowledgable about. Unfortunately, it’s easy to make crucial mistakes when installing and using car seats. On average, 2/3 of parents are using the wrong size seat or strapping them in incorrectly. These mistakes can prove fatal in the case of a car crash. In an effort to save lives, parents are reaching out to fellow parents when they see mistakes being made. Unfortunately, it isn’t always received well and can turn into pretty heated debates. For various reasons the vast majority of the conversations are between women. Check out how this online car seat conversation went down between two dads. Do you think moms are more uptight about criticism or they just are barraged with so much parent advice 24/7 that they are naturally more defensive? –Krystle K […]

  2. […] We never want to see our children in pain. However, three out of four families make one of the biggest safety mistakes every day. They put their children in forward-facing car seats too […]