10 Car Seat Facts Every Parent Should Know

Car seat safety matters. First up, get your facts straight.

There are a number of things all parents need to have on lockdown: A sleep schedule. A discipline strategy. Screen time rules. And, yes, car seat safety. While all of these are important for a kids health and wellbeing, none is so life and death as the last. Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. The. Leading. Cause. Of. Death. Ready to take it seriously now? Good. Here, to start, are 10 facts every parent should know about car seats. Read up.

Car Seat Fact 1. If the car seat wiggles more than one inch on either side, it is not properly installed.

Have a wiggling car seat? Try it again. In all likelihood, you have a twisted seat belt, you’ve put it through the wrong belt path, or you simply didn’t pull the belt tight enough.

Car Seat Fact 2. Rear-facing is better. Period.

If your kid is small enough that you can put them in a rear-facing car seat, do so — whether they’re 18 months of 48 month. Experts everywhere suggest parents keep kids rear-facing as long as possible. Never face them forward before two, and if you have a pre-schooler who is still rear-facing, well, more power to you.

Car Seat Fact 3. The shoulder harness pinch test saves lives.

If there’s any slack in the shoulder harness when you pinch it with your thumb and forefinger, it needs tightening. Period. Ignore the cries of your toddler. It might make getting a struggling toddler into their car seat slightly more difficult, but it’s neccesary for their safety.

Car Seat Fact 4. Puffy coats and car seats don’t mix.

A baby or toddler in a car seat wearing a puffy winter coat or snowsuit is dangerous. A blanket or layer over the belt is fine, but underneath puts you in the danger zone.

Car Seat Fact 5. That top tether is there for a reason.

The top tether is used to help prevent a forward-facing car seat from toppling forward during an accident. It’s essential and few parents buckle it. Do say. Every car sold after 2001 has three anchor points and one of them is for this tether.

Car Seat Fact 6. Pricier car seats are not safer.

All car seats sold in the U.S. must meet the same standards by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s that mean? The safest seat is the one that fits the vehicle and child and is installed and used correctly.

Car Seat Fact 7. Kids need boosters for a very long time.

Kids shorter than 4-feet 9-inches must be in a booster, which could mean until they are 10 or even 12 years old. Booster until they’re a teen? Sure. It’s their livelihood.

Car Seat Fact 8. Technicians are better at car seat installations

Fire departments are not the best resource for helping make sure your car seat is properly installed, unless that firefighter is certified to install a car seat. Head to and search for a certified car seat technician to conduct a safety check. Swallow your pride and let the experts take care of your kids. An improperly installed car seat can both come loose in a crash and cause a dangerously wobbly head for your infant.

Car Seat Fact 9. Car seat accessories are verboten.

Toys, mirrors, and other accessories can come loose upon impact and strike your child — and if you’re crashing at speed, even the smallest piece of plastic can do major damage. Here’s a rule of thumb: If it didn’t come with the car seat, or if it isn’t recommended by the car seat manufacturer, don’t use it.

Car Seat Fact 10. Parents forget babies in the backseat.

A rear-facing car seat, a sleeping baby, and a sleep-deprived parent can lead to a deadly combination. Babies die of overheating in the back seat every year. If you regularly drive your baby around town or to daycare, get a car seat alarm. It lets you know baby is in the backseat and it could save a life.