Mom shares warning about baby mirrors in the car after son’s car seat catches fire

Car seat mirror catches on fire from sun
Inside Edition/Instagram

While parents hear a ton about car seat safety—from seat positions, weight limits, buckles, and where the clip should fall on your child’s chest—there’s one unexpected safety measure that mom Emily Perna was forced to reckon with. She shared on her Facebook page, which has generated 346,000 shares since June 12, that the mirror on the back of the front seat scorched a hole in her baby son’s car seat because of the sun’s reflection.

Mirrors are typically used so parents in the front seats of a vehicle can see what their baby is up to in their car seats when they’re rear-facing—which they should be until they reach the maximum height or weight limit set by the car seat’s manufacturer according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And according to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many parents transition children out of rear-facing too soon.

But when Perna got out of her car to get her 21-month-old rear-facing son out of his carseat, she told TODAY in an interview that when she grabbed the diaper bag and put it on her shoulder, she thought she saw dust particles in the air.

“It was like when light comes through a window in your house and you can see dust in the air,” she told TODAY. “I actually can’t believe I noticed it, that’s how faint it was at the start.”

Perna quickly realized it wasn’t dust, as the “dust” started to look like steam and it was getting thicker very quickly. As she removed her son from the car immediately, she realized the light reflecting off the car seat mirror was burning the seat. That dust was actually smoke. Holding her son with one hand, she quickly removed the mirror from the car.

Perna told TODAY that while there “was never a flame,” she can’t help but think about what would have happened had circumstances been different. On that day, she was with her mom, who helped get her older daughter out of the car.

“Normally I’d be getting the two kids out of the car alone and it would have taken much longer to get to Luca,” she told TODAY. She said “In hindsight, she really thinks her baby would have been burned if she hadn’t noticed the smoke and moved him out of the car so quickly.

“It all happened very fast,” she said.

Jen Saxton, a child safety expert and founder and CEO of Tot Squad told TODAY that in her 15 years of being a child passenger safety technician, this is the first time she’s ever heard of a car seat mirror starting a fire.

But obviously, it can happen, however, Saxton said that this is probably an extremely rare situation. Saxton added that mirrors are a convenience and not a “need” when it comes to car seat safety and she likes the convenience of them, but many people don’t even use them.

Even if you choose not to use a mirror in an abundance of caution, there are some non-negotiables when it comes to car seat safety for babies according to Saxton and

Car seat safety tips for babies

  • Do not give them food while driving.

  • No choking hazard-sized toys.

  • No hard, pointy, or heavy objects to hold or be placed in their laps.

  • Your baby’s back and bottom should be flat against the car seat.

  • Check the harness straps every time you buckle – they should come through the car seat’s slots at or just below the baby’s shoulders.

  • Buckle and tighten the harness so it’s snug by doing the “pinch test.” If you cannot pinch the harness strap at your baby’s shoulders, the straps are appropriate. If you can, they need to be tightened to fit more snugly.

  • Use a 5-point chest clip and it needs to be level with your child’s armpits.