LADIES AND GENTS, PLEASE READ THIS!
The topic of car seat safety is a BIG issue and has been weighing on me for awhile now, so much so that I’m thinking of getting my car seat certification. But let’s back up first.
When Josh and I met back in college at Texas A&M, our boss became a very dear friend to us while there and remained close after we both graduated. I didn’t know what he would say with us dating at work, but being a campus textbook store, I don’t think it was a very big deal. And I’m sure he was happy to see wonderful people find true love…ha!
We have kept in touch with his family over the past 10 years and I’ll never forget meeting his wife, Bobbi, at Macy’s with their newborn daughter, Molli, some nine years ago. Bobbi was the first to guess I was pregnant when they came to our new house for a visit and has been a wealth of knowledge for this first time mama. She also lovingly educated both of us on car seat safety after we all got done with a group breakfast one Sunday morning. (Car seat: Graco SnugRide)
There we were in the middle of the restaurant parking lot and she is pulling Emma’s car seat out along with all the other
toys driving hazards stashed in the back seat. Let me tell you, we both learned A LOT that day. That impression stuck with me and trust me, I’m not here to preach but to educate. I was that parent that knew I could visit the local fire department and have them check my seat out-but didn’t. I knew the hospital staff was supposed to check the seat to make sure baby girl was safe to go home-they didn’t. So now what?
Enter our friend, Bobbi. She is a Certified National Child Passenger Seat Technician and I asked her a few questions about car seat safety and what got her involved.
When did you get your certification?
What made you decide to get certified (i.e. was safety a big issue after having kids)?
I am a former volunteer fire fighter and EMT and observed what can happen when children are not restrained properly. When I became a mother I wanted to know that my kids were the safest they could be and attended many free checkup events. This prompted me to become certified and help families while working at ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) and with a background in child development it seemed to fit right in.
What did you do before that?
To make sure my seats were properly installed, I located a local technician for a free appointment or attended a checkup event.
What is the biggest mistake you see and how do you approach strangers?
Probably the most common mistake would be the shoulder straps are not tight enough. If you can pinch the strap it needs to be tighter. That strap will stretch 30% in the event of a crash. If the straps are tight from the beginning, kids are used to it. If they have been loose and you need to tighten them, they might cry but they will get used to it. It shouldn’t be so tight that it leaves marks on their shoulders. And shoulder straps need to be at or above for forward facing children and at or below for rear facing.
Aren’t those cute neck protectors safe, even if they push the clip down to the bottom?
If a product did not come with a seat, don’t use it. It hasn’t been crash tested so you don’t know how it would affect the safety features of a seat! There are some seats that do have a list of crash tested “after market” products that are safe to use with that particular brand. The chest clip must remain between the nipples and arm pits. This is what prevents the shoulder straps from sliding off the shoulder.
What about mirrors for rear-facing babies?
Mirrors are another “after market” product that have not been crash tested. The mirror could become a projectile in the event of a crash. Here is an example of how dangerous it could be. If that mirror weight .5 lbs and you are traveling 30 mph and it were to come loose in a crash, that is like a 15 lb weight that could hit your baby in the face!
Should the handle be up or down on the infant seats?
Every seat is different. *You must read the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to see what is allowed. It is also NOT recommended to hang toys or other things from the handle while traveling. These could also become a projectile in the event of a crash.
What’s one thing you wish you could tell every parent (new or seasoned)?
No matter how well you think you have a seat installed, PLEASE have it inspected by a certified technician. Cars, car seats, and technology are constantly changing. Please seat a technician for the latest and safest update. You can find a technician in your area by going to buckleup.tamu.edu– this is a FREE service!!!!
Where should someone go if interested in becoming certified (like me!)?
To find an upcoming course on becoming a certified technician, you can go to http://cert.safekids.org/ and look for the “Find a Course” tab on the right side. If a course says “controlled” you need to ask the instructor permission to register for that course.
Bobbi also let me know that ‘while working with Passenger Safety at Texas A & M AgriLife Extension service, we observed 99% of car seats are installed improperly! NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Administration) states 3 out of 4 seats are misused.’ Did you get that?
Seriously people-this is horrific! I know you’re thinking, what are the odds of getting in an accident? Doesn’t matter. Don’t you want what’s safest for your little ones especially with all these crazy drivers on the road? I sure do!
~If a child seat can slide more than 1” left to right or back and forth-It is not in tight enough.
~The chest clip is to be placed between the arm pits-that is why it is called a CHEST CLIP and not a belly button clip. This is what holds the straps in place and from not slipping off the shoulder.
~If you can pinch the straps-they are not tight enough. All straps will stretch 30% in the event of a crash so make sure your child is snug!
~Only use a seat belt OR LATCH-never both. (make sure you’re not using the tethers from the left and right seat for middle placement-they’re too far apart)
~Rear facing until age 2 or maximum weight of the seat. It is ok for their feet to touch the back of the seat.
~To see if your seat is installed properly you can find a technician to schedule a FREE inspection at buckleup.tamu.edu-this is good for the whole state of Texas.
After chatting with Bobbi about switching Emma around at 2 years old, she let me know that in Europe they keep them rear-facing until 4 or 5! You may think that’s crazy and that baby boy or girl will be uncomfortable but she said rear-facing is the safest. That was all I needed to hear to keep Emma in the only position she’s ever known. No complaints as of yet.
My friend had told me about Britax car seats, which are apparently the Cadillacs of the car seats, so I definitely wanted to look into them when the time came. What we ended up getting, when she was 6 months old, was the Britax Marathon 70-G3. The Britax Marathon 70-G3 convertible car seat accommodates children rear facing from 5 to 40 pounds and forward facing from 20 up to 70 pounds (Amazon). I absolutely love this seat especially since you can pull off the cover to wash (potty accidents) without having to unhook the seat. I know Emma will be in this puppy for a long time.
Just to make sure you got all the high points, here are the takeaways:
-Chest clips need to be on the chest, not the belly button or somewhere in between.
-Straps need to be tight like a tiger, but not too tight.
-NO neck protectors/strap covers unless they come with the seat.
-Put the handle back while driving and make sure there are no cutesy toys dangling in baby’s face.
-If you are unsure if your car seat is installed properly, GO GET IT CHECKED!
Give it to me baby! Did you have someone properly install your car seat or are you a
selfmade ‘pro’? Are you part of the 99% that have it improperly installed? Fess up-I know I was…guilty as charged! I know now that sometimes you need outside help, especially if they are trained professionals, to show a new parent a thing or two on safety. A HUGE thanks to Bobbi for showing Josh and me how to install Emma’s car seat and help keep her as safe as she can get. Now my driving on the other hand…
Here’s a cheat sheet for ya:
Do me a favor and PLEASE spread the word on making sure your babies and your friend’s babies are as safe as they can be in their car seats!