March 8, 2009

I Just Failed Car Seat Safety-How About You?

I had a conversation with my sister-in-law a few weeks ago about car seat safety. She is a safety nut when it comes to car seats. She has passed this safety to my brother. When we went to my granddad's funeral several months ago, my sister and her family picked up my brother from the airport. I was told the first thing he did when he got in their car was fix the way my nephews were restrained.

So while talking to my SIL, it quickly became apparent that she was appalled/shocked/concerned at my own car seat safety standards. I was a little embarrassed. Josh is in charge of car seat safety at work. We, of all people, should have our children properly retrained. Josh is more laid back than I am with our car seat standards. I gave in too easily, mostly because I didn't want to fight about it or embarrass our boys.

Error Number 1:
Cody does not ride in a booster seat. According to my SIL, and the following that I researched tonight, Cody should be in a booster seat until he weighs at least 80 pounds. He currently weighs about 67 pounds, and has not been in a car/booster seat since he was 4. I told Josh I thought Cody should still be in a booster seat for his safety. Josh said that was ridiculous and that Cody's friends would make fun of him if they saw him in a booster-so he wasn't going to make Cody use a booster seat. Cody is still pretty small for his age, but I know that we aren't the only ones breaking this rule. How sad is it that we have put appearances/feelings before safety?! And how horrible am I to have given in so easily? (don't answer that)

Error Number 2:
Zackary rides in a booster seat. Again, according to my SIL and the following, Zackary should still be in a 5-point harness, not a booster seat. While shopping at Target last year, I went down the aisle to check out weight limits on booster seats. I immediately found one that had a minimum 30 pound weight requirement. Zackary weighed 30 pounds (he is now 32 pounds, also small for his age) I was super excited and bought it for him. The back of our Subaru was really crowded with Maddox in a car seat, Zackary in a car seat, and Cody. I was too anxious to get Zackary in a unit that took up less space. Although the booster seat states that it is safe for Zackary, legally-he should be in a 5-point harness (car seat) until he reaches 40 pounds! I am still surprised that car seats are being sold as safe with the weight limits they have, and yet they aren't even meeting state law. Lesson learned, check your laws before car seat shopping.

Error Number 3:
Maddox is forward facing. And for the final time, my SIL and the following are correct. Maddox should still be rear-facing. When last weighed, in November, Maddox was 18 pounds. He was already facing forward in his car seat. I don't remember exactly what the weight requirement is on our car seat for forward facing-I think it was 12 pounds. We didn't turn him around when he hit 12 pounds. We kept him in an infant seat until his legs looked crowded, then we changed car seats. I wouldn't be surprised if he is still under 20 pounds, which is the requirement for forward facing.

I also have always believed the straps should be at or lower than the shoulders. I was wrong in this. That is only for rear-facing. Forward facing should be at or above the shoulders. I have had my little one forward facing with lower straps!

I think I have just "won" the Mom-With-The-Worst-Car-Seat-Safety Award. Yuck.

Child Restraint Safety Checklist

When traveling with a young child, you need to understand all the facets of child restraints.
At what age is a child restraint no longer necessary?Is there still a weight restriction for child restraints?How should I position my child restraint in the vehicle?
Correcting mistakes made when installing child safety seats could save a life. The most common mistakes are:

-Never place rear facing infants in front seat with passenger-side air bags.
-Infant (under one year AND 20 pounds) should always face the rear of the vehicle.
-Child safety seat needs to be anchored in vehicle by a safety belt.
-Child must be buckled in a child safety seat.
-Child safety seat harness straps in slot at or below infant’s shoulder (rear facing) and at or above toddler’s shoulder (forward facing).
-Harness straps need to be snug – no more than one adult finger should fit under harness.
-Harness retainer clip must be at armpit level to hold harness strap properly over shoulders.
-Vehicle safety belt must hold child safety seat tightly and be threaded through correct belt path of child safety seat.
-Check child safety seat for correct size/type for child’s weight and age.

There are several types of restraint systems, depending on the weight and age of the child.

Infant Seats
Birth to 20 Pounds (birth to age one):
Infants should be in a reclined infant car seat or convertible seat in the infant position to protect the delicate neck and head. All straps should be pulled snugly. The car seat must face the rear of the car and should never be used in a front seat where there is an air bag. The infant must face the rear so that in the event of a crash, swerve, or sudden stop, the infant’s back and shoulders can better absorb the impact. Household infant carriers and cloth carriers are not designed to protect an infant in a car and should never be used. Please never place any toys or mirrors around or near the child's face. During a crash these objects become flying projectiles and will injure your child.

Convertible Seats
5 to 40 Pounds :
The convertible car seat is placed in a reclined rear-facing position until an infant is 1 year and 20 pounds. After children reach at least 1 year and 20 pounds, the convertible seat can be turned forward and placed in the upright position in the back seat of the vehicle.Fasten the convertible car seat with a vehicle seat belt, properly inserting the belt through the car seat frame according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Read the vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions. A locking clip is needed when using a vehicle lap/shoulder belt with a latch plate that moves freely along the belt.

Booster Seats
40 to 80 Pounds :
When a child outgrows the convertible car seat or weighs about 40 pounds, either a belt positioning (backless) or high-back booster seat can be used with a lap/shoulder belt in the back seat of the vehicle. For those vehicles that do not have lap/shoulder belts, the options are limited:1.) Retrofit the vehicle with shoulder belts,2.) Use a harness or vest system,3.) Purchase a new booster seat with harnesses that secure to the vehicle seat with the lap belt.

2 comments from people we love:

*~Randi~* said...

Chris is a car seat tech , he did the week long class and so is Kirby so they might have more info for you. Chris does car seat checks all the time up at the station.

Meredith said...

Don't feel like an awful mother... I'm probably the Mom-With-The-Worst-Car-Seat-Safety award....

Jackson is in a booster seat. He weighs just barely 30 pounds. He loves it, and I wouldn't change anything.

Logan has been in a forward facing seat since he was 9 months old. And he just barely weighs 16lbs NOW. All of the boys have gone forward facing at 9 months. It always seemed to be the time that they needed it. I know they are supposed to be 1 year and 20 lbs, but...what can I say. We didn't follow that!

Eric is also way more laid back than I am; he'll take Jackson to the store and just buckle him in the back seat without anything. It kind of bugs me, but if he's just going 2 minutes away, ::: shruggs ::: it's not worth a fight.

So you're not alone.