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30 Jan 2020

Five ways you've been using your child car seat unsafely

Avoid these easy-to-make car seat mistakes when travelling with your baby

There are a number of dangerous car seat mistakes that could compromise your baby or child's safety.

Although they may seem minor, they could have a chilling knock-on effect if you're unlucky enough to be involved in a road collision.

Read on to find out what they are, and use our free downloadable car seat fitting checklist to make sure your child is protected every time you set off in your car.

Choose a Best Buy child car seat that's gone through our rigorous crash tests.

1. Not using the correct size car seat

In most cases parents don't want their children to grow up too quickly, but that's not always true with car seats.

Although you might be excited to move up to the next stage of car seat, it's important for your little one to stay in their seat until their weight or height exceeds its limit.

They should also move to the next size up if they've grown too tall for the adjustable harness (the top of the harness should sit 2cm above the shoulder), or if they've outgrown the head protection, which means the top of their head is no longer protected.

Find out more in our guide to baby and child car seat weight groups.

2. Turning your child round too quickly

Crash tests have shown that rear-facing car seats do a better job of protecting your child's head, neck and spine in a crash compared with a forward-facing car seat, so don't be tempted to turn your child around too quickly.

We'd recommend keeping your baby rearward-facing up until at least 15 months old, but ideally as long as possible.

We've found seven Best Buy extended rear-facing car seats that will last until your child reaches four years old, providing good value for money.

3. Dressing your baby in bulky clothes

Whenever you're putting your child in the car, it's important to take off any coats or bulky clothing first.

This is because the seat harness needs to fit snugly, and thick clothes can make it less effective at holding your child in place.

If you're worried about your little one getting cold without a coat, you can cover them with a blanket once the harness is in place and securely fastened.

4. Loose straps or incorrectly positioned harness

Even a Best Buy car seat will fail to protect your child properly if the harness isn't in the right place and the straps are loose.

The harness should be roughly level with your child's shoulders, and the straps secured tightly over their body - tight enough so you're just able to fit two fingers between the shoulder straps and your child's body.

This is to ensure your child is held securely, and there's no room for their shoulders to slip out and risk them being thrown out of the car seat.

5. Using accessories that compromise the safety of the car seat

There's a myriad of car seat accessories available, but you must do your research before you use any with your seat.

If the accessory in question has been produced by the manufacturer of your car seat, then it should be safe to use, as the manufacturer will have crash-tested it with the seat.

But if it's not approved by the manufacturer, then it typically hasn't been crash-tested. It could potentially interfere with the car seat and affect the protection it provides, as well as void your warranty or insurance.

Our car seat experts have investigated a wide range of car seat accessories to see which are safe or appropriate to use, including neck pillows, chest clips and anti-escape systems.

Go to our child car seat accessories guide to find out which get the thumbs up, and which our experts advise you to beware of.