The most dangerous thing in your child’s life is probably not what you realized – your vehicle. For 20 years, motor vehicle crashes have been the leading cause of death for children. Tragically, more than 500 children are injured in auto crashes every single day. Thankfully, many of these injuries can be prevented by proper car seat installation.

Did you know that only 1 in 5 parents check to make sure their child’s car seat is properly installed? If you’ve never attempted to install a car seat yourself, that may sound absurd. Our founder, Danny Daniel, was shocked to learn just how complicated car seats could be. 

Car seats are complicated.

“When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we bought the safest, highest rated car seat we could find, but trying to install it was more complicated than I would have ever imagined,” said Danny. “I’ve been working on cars most of my life, and I still had trouble. That’s when it occurred to me that this must be a problem for most people.”  

Realizing that installing a car seat correctly was more difficult than he thought, Danny and the rest of the team at Daniel Stark wanted to help others facing the same problem. Since 2008, we have partnered with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s car seat experts to provide free car seats and teach correct installation to families in our communities.  

Most car seats are installed incorrectly.

1,836 children have been fitted for a car seat at our events. In those 14 years, only 3.2% of children have arrived to the event properly restrained – if they were buckled up at all. The harsh reality is that many parents do not understand how to safely install their child’s car seat. 73% of forward-facing car seats are installed incorrectly

Proper car seat installation is critical to keep children safe. In our line of work, we witness tragedies every day. If we can help even one child stay safe – it’s worth it.  

Help us spread the word about car seat safety. Many parents may be completely unaware that their child’s car seat is not properly installed. Here are four common problems to keep an eye out for.

4 Common Car Seat Mistakes

1 – Improper Seat Installation 

Every car seat is different. Seats that may look relatively similar in design often have drastically different installation guidelines. People often route their seat belt through the wrong belt path, forget to use a top tether, and or install the car seat in the wrong direction. When correctly installed, a car seat should wiggle no more than one inch from side to side. We always recommend consulting a trained technician when installing a car seat for the first time.  

2 – Wrong Size Car Seat

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to car seats. Your child’s age, height, and weight all determine the proper fit. At minimum, children should have three car seats in their life: a rear-facing seat until at least 2 years old, a forward-facing seat with a harness until at least 4 years old, and lastly a booster seat.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a simple tool for finding the right car seat for your child, but again, we recommend working with a trained car seat expert to be sure that your child’s seat fits properly.  

3 – Unsafe Chest Clip Position 

While often ignored, the chest clip is one of the most important ways to keep children safe in the event of a crash. If it’s too low, they could slip out and be ejected during a crash. Too high? The risk for severe neck injuries increases. As a general rule, the chest clip should be positioned in line with a child’s arm pits. 

4 – Outdated or Unsafe Car Seat 

Always pay attention to the expiration date on your car seat. Even on the highest quality car seats, parts wear out and plastic becomes brittle. Most seats expire six years after the manufacture date. Typically the expiration date can be found on the seat and owner’s manual.  

In addition, it’s important to register your car seat with the manufacturer after purchase. This will ensure you are alerted of any safety recalls.  

Learn to install a car seat correctly.

If you or someone you know needs a car seat or just wants to be sure that theirs is properly installed, click below to make an appointment for our Car Seat Safety event on September 24, 2022.

Let’s all do our part to ensure that our children ride safely!