I’m slightly obsessed with car seat safety. It comes from the scars of my work as an EMT through college. I volunteered in two rural towns, and though one of those towns was big enough to have almost 1500 Ambulance calls a year, that’s not even close to what paid EMS personnel in big cities witness daily. However, I did see some pretty horrible stuff and some of these images are hard to shake. Naturally, those memories have new meaning as a parent.
This morning I read an article about Britax (my personal favorite car seat manufacturer) releasing a new line that will redefine their brand. The line is due out at the end of August and you can pre-order their new seats through most online retailers as early as today. I research car seats constantly — and not just via online reviews on the manufacturer or retailers websites – I take my friend’s experiences into consideration. I want to know two things: the safety ratings and ease of use. Price point, while important, isn’t the first thing I look into.
I know how to install a car seat. I watch the videos. I read the manual. I’m well aware of the how-to’s, but that little voice in my head always pipes up, “What if I did it wrong? What if something I did could make a difference in a crash?”
I’ve had car seats in my car since long before I had my own kids. The youngest of four siblings, I always had nieces and nephews to cart around. I always made sure the car seats were installed by a certified technician and were seats with good ratings. When I found out that to become a certified child safety seat technician it took logging roughly 40-hours of classroom time, I was completely shocked. However, hearing that only validated my will to have the car seats professionally installed.
If you’re in the market for a new car seat, this site (which corresponds with this book has some pretty amazing reviews and ratings when it comes to car seats and other baby gear. The book was a bible for me when researching the gear I wanted to purchase for our first child. I highly recommend it for anyone expecting their first or their second. We’re expecting our second this fall and on my list of Baby Prep To Do’s lies a bullet dedicated to this book and checking to see if any of our only two-years-young baby gear has been recalled.
Every state (and country) has unique laws when it comes to children and car seats. Here in Connecticut, children are required to be in some kind of restraint until they are 6-years old and at least 60 lbs. Check on your states website for the latest information where you live.
If you already have and love your current car seat, here are some quick tips that can help to make sure your child is secured safely.
- The seat should not move more than a half-inch in either direction when shaken at the base; in fact, the entire car should move when you shake the seat
- The straps should be free of all twists
- The chest buckle should be at nipple or armpit height
- Straps should be tight enough that only one finger can slip between the strap and the child’s shoulder
- Shoulder straps should be at or just below the shoulder for rear-facing infants and at or just above the shoulder for forward facing kids (remember, rear-facing for as long as possible is best!)
- Avoid strapping your child into their seat while they’re wearing a winter coat or snowsuit.
The last bullet is tough. I live in New England where it gets quite cold during the winter months and I hate that last bullet. However, strapping a kid into a car seat in a big coat will change the points of restraint. In a head-on crash the child can be forced forward further than they would without a jacket causing a whipping motion of the head and potentially causing a neck injury. I keep a heavy blanket in the car and cover my daughter after she’s strapped in wearing only what she’d be wearing if we were inside. Some people recommend putting the child’s arms back through the jacket arm holes after the child is secured so the jacket acts like a blanket. The jacket-on, jacket-off, jacket-on routine is painful. But you just never know how much those extra minutes could be worth.
I recommend to all parents I meet that they look up a certified child seat safety technician in their town or city and make an appointment to have their seats installed or, if it’s already installed, have it checked. The best place to start is the local police department and/or fire department. Sometimes pre-schools or local businesses (like Walmart or Babies R Us) will have a bulletin board with community events that will list Safety Seat Checkpoints. It takes just a few minutes to have your seat checked by a professional. It might be the most valuable few minutes you ever spend.
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Photo graciously provided by Geek2Nurse, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved