Two weeks ago I achieved my certification as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). I was so excited to become a technician! I knew I would be glad to get certified, but I had no idea how good I would feel about being able to help people install their car seats safely.
The class was about a week long, and on our last day we volunteered to check people's car seat installations. With both of the cars I worked on we made changes to the configuration to make the children safer. I felt so good knowing that I was able to help parents find the safest way to transport their children. I am pretty sure this sounds very nerdy, but it is so important to me to be able to do this--it is an extension of what Franklin Goose is, a place to find safe products for your family and to find knowledge and advice.
In the class we heard terrible stories about crashes where children died or were badly wounded because of lack of car seat safety or installation. It broke my heart every single time. We also heard about really good things, too, like the programs available that donate car seats to needy families. (Please note, if you're interested in learning more about that, you can contact your health department for the correct place to go.)
There were many things that I learned that I would like to share with you.
Rear Facing Until Four
The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) recommendation is for children to be rear facing up to 2 years old right now, but there is a lot of talk about a new recommendation to keep kids rear facing until four. Some of the discussions we've been hearing have been about whether or not rear facing until 4 is safer, as well as concern over possible injuries sustained in children rear-facing at an older age.
There is actually much less of a risk to the child when rear-facing until four. Contrary to what many people think there is less risk of damage to the legs and hips while rear facing, along with the neck and back. The reason is that in a front impact crash, (the most common type of crash), a forward facing child is propelled forward with the force of the crash. In the same scenario, a rear facing child moves with the seat, protected completely, almost like a rocking motion.
Here are two videos that really show the difference:
I did not realize that car crashes are the leading cause of death in our country for children. In fact, I was amazed when I read in my technician guide by the NHTSA that "A vehicle going 40 mph would hit a tree with the same force as hitting the ground after falling off a 50-foot cliff. A person inside the vehicle would hit the windshield with the same force as hitting the ground after a fall from a 5-story building."
Coats & Car Seats
Did you know your child should not wear their coats or bunting in the car seat? Puffy types of coats hold air. In a car crash, this air is compressed, allowing for inches of extra movement between your child and the car seat harness or seat belt, which can be dangerous. (This also holds true for adults and teenagers as well.)
If you can, start your car before it's time to go to warm it up before you bring your children outside. If you're unable to do so, then take the coat off of your child, buckle them into their car seat, and then slip the coat on backwards or put a blanket over them and the harness. This will keep them warm and safe.
Here is a great video that demonstrates this:
Car Seat Safety Checks
There are car seat safety checks all across the country. You can do an Internet search to find locations close to you to have your car seat installation checked. When you go to these events, have them show you how to install the seat. If they install it for you that is great until the first time you need to move it, but if you have them show you how to do it, you will always know the best way to install your seats.
Also, whenever you put your child in the car seat, check for tightness of the seat belt. Normal driving and road conditions can loosen the belt over time, so get in the habit of checking to make sure the seat belt or latches remain tight.
It is also not recommended by the NHTSA or your car seat manufacturer to have anything on the car seats that didn't come with it, such as teething pads, head rests, toys etc. They can interfer with the performance of the seat or become hazards in the event of an accident.
The purpose of car seats and every choice you make regarding the car seat, the harnessing, the seat belt etc., is to put your child in a pre-crash position that will help to save their life or keep them from as much injury as possible. For me to be able to help assist with this in any way makes me so proud.