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Car Seats & Safety Precautions!

May 10, 2012

Car Seats – just mentioning the words makes me feel so overwhelmed!!  There are SO many decisions parents must make for their child(ren) and one of the first decisions is “which car seat is best for my child?”  Truthfully, when we were looking for car seats, the thought didn’t really cross my mind regarding ratings, safety standards, etc. – I just wanted a cute travel system stroller.  So naive of me to think in this manner!  But I admit that I was a very un-educated first-time pregnant woman with lots of “pregnancy brain” issues going on!  🙂  I don’t even remember what brand travel system we ended up with but it worked for what we needed it for.  We also didn’t need it for very long and ended up selling it by the time D was seven months old!  He is a very tall child so he grew out of his “bucket” seat very quickly!  (Which I was thankful for because it was getting REALLY heavy to carry around!)

When he was about five months old I started doing a bunch of research regarding convertible car seats – ones which were created for rear AND forward facing.  I knew he would be quickly growing out of his current “bucket” seat and wanted to make sure we had the next size on hand and ready to go.  I had learned LOTS since D was born about baby gear, especially from other moms.  One of my mommy friends was telling me about the car seat they chose for their son because he was so tall and also informed me about a plethora of information regarding car seats and small children – things I would have NEVER known if it wasn’t for her sharing this knowledge (at least not in time for purchasing the next car seat).

We ended up buying the Sunshine Kids (now called Diono) Radian car seat for numerous reasons – first, it has the longest rear-facing capabilities on the market (up to 40 lbs.), the steel alloy frame and aluminum reinforced sides make for a very sturdy car seat frame, FAA approved for air travel, and can also be used as a booster seat (up to 100 lbs.).  Also, our main car is a Toyota Corolla so we wanted something that would fit but not be too bulky for the back seat, which the Sunshine Kids car seat allows this.  You can actually fit three of these car seats in a row comfortably!  Which lots of other car seat brands are SO bulky and wide that it’s impossible to fit anything else near the seat.  We also wanted to plan ahead and make sure whichever car seat we got allowed us to comfortable put another car seat in the back (for baby #2 someday…).  They now have a more recent model out that has a better side impact cushions and 5 more pounds added to the rear-facing capabilities.  This is a great brand and car seat for the price – read the reviews and you’ll be hooked!  But also be sure to do research on the many other brands out there like Brittax, to make sure you’re comfortable with your decision, as it is an expensive one but well worth every penny!

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children stay rear-facing for at least two years or as long as the car seat requirements allow.  This is a change from the one year or 20 pounds recommendation beforehand.  Check out the article here regarding the latest changes and why such changes have been implemented.  I personally believe that it’s about time that the AAP did so and this will hopefully save childrens’ lives too!

One study found that riding rear-facing was five times more safer than forward facing.  A rear-facing child seat is more capable of supporting the head, neck and spine of smaller children whose bones have yet to completely harden (which doesn’t happen til after their third birthday)!  These few facts are enough to convince me to keep my child rear-facing for AS LONG AS POSSIBLE!  This short video does a great job of explaining why one should extend rear-facing car seats for as  long as possible – Extended Rear Facing.

www.car-seat.org is a great organization which has created a forum for parents and others to explore and utilize when needing information regarding car seats and the numerous aspects surrounding them.  Here are some EXCELLENT tips from Brealin Rogers, Child Passenger Safety Technician, regarding how a car seat should be buckled in, how a child should be securely strapped in, as well as car seat recommendations.

  • The harness needs to be snug enough to pass the pinch test and the chest clip needs to be at armpit level.  Not down on the belly.
  • The straps should not be twisted at all.  If the harness is not twisted and lies flat, the crash force will spread evenly.  If it’s twisted, the force will be concentrated on certain areas and could cause major injuries.  This could also make it hard to tighten the straps properly.
  • You can never use LATCH AND seat belt at the same time.  Pick one or the other.  They are equally safe.
  • Most of the time you cannot use LATCH in the center seat.  Check your vehicle’s manual.
  • Forward facing straps need to be at or above the child’s shoulders.  Rear Facing straps need to be at or below the child’s shoulders.
  • Top tether all forward facing car seats.  If your car does not have top tethers, contact the manufacturer and ask to have one retrofitted.
  • Use the appropriate seat for your child’s height, weight and age.  Rear face as long as possible, harness as long as possible and booster as long as possible.  Each step up in car seats is a step down in safety if it’s done too soon.
  • A properly installed car seat should move less than 1” from side to side and front to back at the belt path.  A little wiggle is ok.  More than 1” is not safe.
  • Don’t use an expired car seat or a used car seat.  If you aren’t 100% sure of it’s history, consider it unsafe.
  • Don’t use any aftermarket products.  If it didn’t come with the seat, it’s not safe.  Bundle Me, Mighty Tite, shoulder pads, head pillow, snuzzler, mirror, sun shades, seat protector… the list goes on and on.  They can interfere with the seat, or become a projectile.
  • Don’t put bulky clothing or coats on your child.
  • Always wear YOUR seat belt!  Children do what they see.  Set a good example and teach your child safe habits.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help!  Over 90% of car seats are being misused.  Make sure yours is not one of them.  Find a certified CPST and have your seat inspected.  It could save your child’s life. http://cert.safekids.org/

INFANT SEATS:

*front adjust harness*

  • Safety 1st Onboard35 – 4-35 lbs.
  • Graco Snugride30/35 – 5-30/35 lbs.
  • Chicco Keyfit30 – 4-30 lbs.

CONVERTIBLE SEATS:

  • Sunshine Kids/Diono Radian – RF 5-45 lbs. / FF 20-80 lbs. / Booster up to 120 lbs.
  • Graco MyRide65 – RF 5-40 lbs. / FF 20-65 lbs.
  • Safety 1st Complete Air 65 – RF 5-40 lbs. / FF 22-65 lbs.
  • Cosco Scenera 40 – RF 5-40 lbs. / FF 20-50 lbs.
  • Learning Curve/First Years True Fit Premier – RF 5-35 lbs. / FF 20-65 lbs.
  • Evenflo Titan Elite – RF 5-35 lbs. / FF 20-50 lbs.
  • Evenflo Triumph Advance – RF 5-35 lbs. / FF 20-50 lbs.

COMBO/HWH SEATS:

  • Evenflo Maestro *Not a good booster* – 20-50 lbs.
  • Graco Nautilus – Harness 20-65 lbs. / HBB 30-100 lbs / LBB 40-100 lbs.
  • Britax Frontier85 *2 year minimum* – Harness 25-85 lbs. / Booster 40-120 lbs.

DEDICATED BOOSTERS:

  • Graco Turbobooster
  • Britax Parkway SG/SGL
  • Sunshine Kids / Diono Monterey
  • Recaro Probooster

SEATS TO AVOID:

  • Safey 1st Alpha Omega
  • Graco Comfortsport
  • Evenflo Tribute
  • All 3 in 1 convertibles (with the exception of new Radians)

Safe Kids CPST

Brealin Rogers, Child Passenger Safety Technician

480-600-2099

smileybrea@gmail.com

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This YouTube video shows the differences between the impact on the child when rear and forward facing during an accident.

Rear vs. Forward facing

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If this post can educate at least one person about the correct standards regarding child car seats, it could be enough to save a child’s life (and hopefully many more), which is more than I could ever ask for!  Please take a little time to educate yourself regarding car seat safety.  It’s the least I can do to try and help prevent dangerous, even fatal injuries from occurring!

Here’s a few other sites that offer excellent information regarding child safety seats, where to get help, etc.

Seatcheck.org – Connect.  Inspect.  Protect.

NHTSA.gov – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Also, contact your local fire stations for help regarding car seat installation, etc.  Most facilities are educated and trained to help parents properly install their car seats.

I hope this information is enough to at least startle your inner curiosity and help start your own research regarding child car seat safety.  It’s one of THE most important decisions you can make in helping protect your child(ren) against possible deadly impact car crashes.  Children are SO fragile and innocent – don’t put your child in harms way, especially when it’s something you can so easily help prevent!!

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