Child Safety Seat

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Child Safety Seat

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Police: Child Safety Seat Mistakes

Over 95% of Child Seats are installed wrong in vehicles. Is yours in right?

The Ten Most Common Mistakes Made

1. Child Facing Forward Too Soon

The AAP recommends that all infants should ride rear-facing starting with their first ride home from the hospital. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years of age or preferably until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat's manufacturer.

2. Seat Belt Not Securing Child Safety Seat Tightly

When properly secured, a child seat should not move side to side more than one inch, when the seat is pulled from the base near the seat belt. 

3. Harness Straps In Wrong Slots

When rear facing, harness straps should be routed through the slots that are “at or below” the child’s shoulders. When forward facing, the straps should be routed through slots that are “at or above” the shoulders. For most convertible seats, the harness straps should be at the highest slots when forward facing, as these slots are reinforced.

4. Locking Clip Not Used When Required

A locking clip should be used when you have a seat belt system that is a lap and shoulder belt combination, with a free sliding latch plate, and an emergency locking retractor (a retractor that only locks in a crash or emergency braking). The locking clip should be installed within one inch of the buckle.

5. Retainer Clip Not Used Correctly

The retainer clip, which properly positions the shoulder harness straps, should be at the child’s armpit level. The straps should be threaded through the clip in the same manner on both sides.

6. Harness Straps Not Tight Enough

The harness straps are what will hold your child in position in the child seat when a crash occurs. They should be snug enough so that only one finger can be placed between the strap and the child’s shoulder.

7. Improper Child Seat For The Child

Every child seat has weight and height parameters. Never exceed these parameters as set by the manufacturer. If your child weighs more than the seat allows, you must transition your child to another seat. Do not move your child into a seat belt only, too soon. Seat belts are designed for adults, not 6 year old children. Keep your child in a booster seat as long as possible.

8. Using A Recalled Or Unsafe Seat

Many child seats have been recalled by the manufacturers, but not all recalls require the seat to be destroyed. Many simply require a replacement part that you can obtain free. A copy of the current recall list is available on the NHTSA website ( Do not use a child seat that has been purchased from a resale shop or at a garage sale. You do not know the history behind the seat, and it may be missing critical parts. Lastly, never use a child seat after it has been involved in a crash. You should ask that it be replaced by your insurance company when they fix your car.

9. Child Seat Incompatible With Vehicle Seat/Air Bag

Never place a rear facing child seat in front of an air bag! Also, not every child seat will fit properly in every car. Some seat belt systems and vehicle seat designs make it very difficult if not impossible to install a child seat properly. Some child seat designs are not compatible with certain cars. Try before you buy.

10. “Foreign Objects” Used To Secure A Child Seat

Do not use such items as bungee cords, tie down straps, rope, wire, clamps, etc., to secure your child seat. These items could prove very dangerous in a crash. A rolled up towel or foam “pool noodle” can be used under a rear facing seat to assist in properly positioning the child seat at the required 45 degree angle.

If you are unable to secure your child seat, or would like assistance in checking your seat for recalls or proper installation, contact your local police/fire department and ask for a “Child Seat Technician.” If they don’t have someone properly trained, please go to and search for a child seat technician in your area.

To schedule an appointment with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in Hoffman Estates, please email the Traffic Section.

(The statistics cited herein represent those mistakes observed during child seat checkpoint clinics sponsored by the Hoffman Estates, Illinois Police Department.)

Sponsored by the Hoffman Estates Police Department and the "Red, White, & Blue Child Passenger Safety Team," with special sponsorship by "Code Three Public Safety Equipment."