Car Seat Misuse

At least half of car seats

are unintentionally misused. Partial misuse of a safety seat reduces its effectiveness against severe injuries.

Parents’ top 3 mistakes when installing car seats include:

  • Installing the seat too loosely
  • Positioning the harness straps loosely
  • Not using the tether when forward-facing

To help guard against misuse of car seats, parents should always:

  • READ car seat instructions, labels, and vehicle owner’s manual
  • Install the seat tightly (less than 1 inch of movement at the base) & lock the safety belt

The leading cause of injuries from misuse of booster seats is misuse of the seat belt. Common misuses of booster seats and seat belts include:

  • Allowing the seat belt to be behind the child’s back, under the child’s arm, or over the booster seat arm rest
  • The seat belt not resting on the middle of the shoulder
  • Seat belt positioned too loosely

Car Seat Inspections

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to get help at a car seat inspection station near you. Certified technicians will inspect your car seat free of charge, in most cases, and show you how to correctly install and use it.


To find a seat check event: