Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Car Seat Safety Info

Car crashes are a leading killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. The best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way.
NHTSA released new guidelines.  Under the new guidelines, NHTSA is advising parents and caregivers to keep children in each restraint type, including rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats, for as long as possible before moving them up to the next type of seat.
For instance, the safety agency recommends using the restraints in the rear-facing position as long as children fit within the height and weight limits of the car seat as established by the manufacturer. The rear-facing position reduces stresses to the neck and spinal cord and is particularly important for growing babies.
NHTSA said that its new guidelines are consistent with the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises parents to keep kids in rear-facing restraints until two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat's manufacturer. There is no need to hurry to transition a child to the next restraint type.

AAP Policy In March 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its revised Child Passenger Safety recommendations. The statement increased the minimum age that children should ride rear-facing in infant and convertible seats from 1 to 2 years and the age that children should remain in the rear seat from 12 to 13 years. Though intended to educate parents on the best practices to protect their children from death or injury while riding within a vehicle, these recommendations also provide guidance to state lawmakers seeking to enact child passenger safety legislation that best protects children. The following provisions should be included within child passenger safety legislation:  Infants and toddlers should ride facing the rear of the vehicle until at least 2 years of age. States may choose to adopt age 1 requirements immediately, and phase in a requirement to ride rear-facing until age 2 within 2 to 4 years, with provision for educating parents in the interim about the benefits of riding rear-facing as long as possible.  Young children should ride in car safety seats with a harness until at least age 4, with guidance educating parents and caregivers about the benefits of riding in a seat with a 5-point harnessup to the highest weight or height allowedby the manufacturer.  School-aged children should ride in belt positioning booster seats until at least age 8 or until the seat belt fits correctly, as described by the AAP and NHTSA.  Children should ride in the rear-seat until age 13

1) Find a Car Seat Technician in your area. 
Search your area for a certified car seat technician to make sure your car seat is properly installed, and shows you how to probably install it. Car Seat Inspection Stations

2) Car seats do have expiration dates. They have a 6-10 year limit. Depending on the seat and the plastic it's made out of.

 Does the expiration date really matter?Is this just a way for the car seat manufacturers to make more money? You wouldn't give your kids milk that is beyond its expiration date, or medicine beyond its expiration date - so too, your child shouldn't be riding in an expired seat. One of the main reasons seats expire is that they are made of plastic. Plastic becomes brittle and weak as it ages - two qualities you don't want in a car seat that has to withstand severe crash forces. Therefore it's important that the plastic is new enough that the car seat will be able to perform properly. Car Seat Safety FAQ

3) Use the LATCH system OR the seat belt...NOT both
Often times, I have heard moms tell me that they install their car seats with the latch and then the seat belt, just as a precaution. The common misconception is that using both is doubly safe. In fact however, it is the opposite.It seems like common sense that it would hold the seat in place better, but actually, a car seat is supposed to be able to move and flex a small amount during an accident to absorb some of the impact. If you used both, it could possibly cause too much of the force to be transferred to the child...or having two straps could simply put too much stress on the car seat's belt path, causing the plastic to break and have the child and car seat fly out of the windshield.Truth of the matter is this: we don't know WHY we can't do it, all we know is that EVERY.SINGLE. car seat manufacturer says not to, so it would be safe to assume that it has failed for some reason or another. Since they don't release crash test info, we can only speculate on theories.You CAN use the top tether ONLY with a seat belt, to help secure the top of the seat from moving. Just NOT the entire latch system. If you're using a seat belt, leave the anchor ALONE. LATCH

4) No Aftermarket Products!
Most simply put: If it didn't come with your car seat, it isn't safe to use.
Aftermarket car seat products are items not sold with a car seat. The products claim extra comfort, style and protection, but do not be fooled! Aftermarket products may void your car seat’s warranty. Worse yet, they can prevent your child from being secured correctly or can come loose in a crash and cause serious injury. Some common aftermarket products include, head support cushions, harness strap covers, car seat covers, add-on toys and trays, seat belt adjusters and headrest mirrors. Until these products are tested and there are federal guidelines for them, do not use add-on items with your car seat. Aftermarket Products

5) Know how to safely and properly clean your car seat.
Be very careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions when you wash the car seat. You cannot soak the straps, you cannot use harsh cleaners, and for some car seats, you can't put the cover in the dryer either. Yet another case of "READ YOUR MANUAL." If you don't follow the instructions, you can quite literally ruin your seat.
Harness straps may not be washed, they are not to be submerged. Why not: Soaking the straps in even just plain water can wash away the fire-retardant chemicals on the harness and currently, there is no way to get that back. Even worse, washing with detergents that have bleach alternatives, optical brighteners, and a laundry list (no pun intended) of chemicals can weaken the integrity of the straps, causing them to fail in an accident. Your best bet is to wipe down the straps with a damp wash cloth and mild soap like dove (IF NEEDED). If you have already washed your straps before reading this, call your car seat manufacturer and explain the mistake. Most of them will ship you replacement straps for free as a courtesy. (Not sure about that part, but replacement harnesses are not that expensive). Washing Straps

6) Installations need to be TIGHT
You should not be able to move your car seat side to side more than 1inch...that's it, an inch. In a car accident, the force is much stronger than you are, so that 1 inch becomes even looser.
Ideally, you want the child coupled as tightly as possible to the harness system and carseat, and the carseat coupled as tightly as possible to the vehicle with the seatbelt or LATCH system.  When you do this, the child gains all the benefit of "ride-down time" provided by the crushing frame of the vehicle in a crash.  With a loose installation of any kind, the child gets less ride down time and suffers a more severe crash into the harness system.
What can happen: besides the obvious, whiplash...severe shaking of the brain could cause swelling and bleeding and possibly death. Imagine the car seat striking the window or another passenger. Is my car seat tight enough?

7) That little thing that's called a chest clip...it goes on the chest, no really- IT DOES!
(a general rule of thumb is to have it even with the armpits, you can never go wrong if you remember that)The chest clip is designed to keep the harness straps properly positioned on the child’s shoulders; this is important because the harness is the component that keeps the child restrained in the car seat. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that 59% of child harnesses are not tight enough. If the harness is loose and the chest clip is too low, one or both harness straps can slide off the child’s shoulders, allowing the child to potentially be ejected from the car seat in the event of a crash.In a collision, the chest clip can cause damage and/or internal bleeding to vital organs in your child's abdominal region, which is not protected by the ribcage. Where should the chest clip be on my child?
See picture for correct and incorrect placement.
Photo courtesy of There Is Nothing Better Than Being A Mommy.
8) Harness straps should fit snugly!
The easiest way to check to see if your harness straps are too loose is the pinch test. Secure your child in the car seat and buckle the harness as usual. Using your thumb and pointer finger, try to pinch one of the harness straps at your child’s collarbone level. If you’re able to pinch the strap, the harness is not tight enough. You should not be able to pinch any excess Be sure that you don't get the harness straps TOO tight-there is such a thing. You don't want it digging into the child's body, making it uncomfortable for them.What can happen:Loose harness straps leave your child at an elevated risk of injury during a crash because they may allow your child to move out of position; they can even lead to ejection from the child seat during a crash. How tight should the straps be?
See Picture for correct and incorrect tightness.
Photo courtesy of  There Is Nothing Better Than Being A Mommy.

9) Can my child wear a winter coat in their carseat?
Generally, no.  For safety, the harness straps must remain tight on the child's shoulders regardless of any clothing.  You can put a blanket over the child, OUTSIDE the harness straps or put your child's coat on backwards after they are in the seat.  For infants in cold weather, an aftermarket "cozy" that zips over the infant carrier rather than fitting under the child is another solution. Can my child wear a winter coat in their seat?

10) Find out if you're allowed to have the handle on your infant seat up while driving.
Infant seats all have different rules as to whether or not the handle is allowed to be in the "carry" position while the seat is in the car. Know your particular car seat's rules. Seats that aren't designed for it say to put it down because a child can smash into it or be hit with broken pieces in an accident.

11) Boosters Are For Big Kids
Most kids need to ride in a booster seat from about age 4 until age 10-12.

If your child isn’t using a booster, try the simple test below the next time you ride together in the car. You may find that your child is not yet ready to use a safety belt without a booster.

The 5-Step Test.1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat? 2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat? 3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm? 4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs? 5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? 

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to make both the shoulder belt and the lap belt fit right for the best crash protection. Your child will be more comfortable, too!

For best protection, all children should ride in the back seat until they are ready to drive. It's twice as safe as the front seat.

12) No Gaps Allowed Between Baby's Crotch/Groin Area and Harness
 This is really only an issue with newborns, but an important one. If there is a gap between crotch and harness buckle, roll up a washcloth or receiving blanket and put it in a upside-down U shape, with the middle between baby's crotch and the harness and the rest lying flat between the legs. This is one of the only "add-ons" allowed. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.

13) Know the Proper Guidelines for Outgrowing a Seat
Outgrowing a seat has nothing to do with legs touching the seat. There has never been a case of legs breaking from touching the seat and even if there were -- would you choose for your child to break their legs or their neck? Only one of those can be fixed. Your child has outgrown a seat in weight when they reach the max limit for that position. This is non-negotiable. When rear-facing, your child has outgrown their seat in height when there is less than an inch of the hard shell left at the top of the seat above your child's head. This ismeasured perpendicular to the seat's recline. However, there is a new seat that has different guidelines -- so be sure to read the manual for your seat!

14) Don't let your straps stay twisted, ever.
Your straps need to lie flat with no twists, 100 percent of the time. Check to make sure the straps are flat and straight every single time you put your baby in the car seat. Letting them twist can create weak points or even damage the straps permanently if you let them stay twisted. They create a point where they can break or distribute force unevenly and can injure your child. It takes two seconds -- just fix it.
Certain seats with thicker straps like Britax and Radians don't twist as easily, and other harness designs can sometimes make it difficult for the straps not to twist. This is something to consider when buying a seat, as having to constantly untwist straps can be really annoying.

15) Know if your seat allows Bracing

Bracing means having the car seat touch the back of the front seat. If you have advanced air bags, this is completely unsafe! You'll have to read your vehicle owner's manual to see if they allow bracing. Even if the car seat allows bracing, if the car itself does not, the seats CAN NOT touch. 

16) Clear your car of projectiles.
Those BPA-free metal water bottles are totally awesome and earth-friendly, but unless you can clip them to something, they are a dangerous projectile. In fact, any loose item in your car is potentially deadly because when you're driving 75 miles per hour and have to slam on your brakes, those items are also going 75 miles per hour. This applies to your diaper bag, purse, and scalding hot coffee. Utilitze the trunk, glove box, and put your cell phone in your pocket. Buy cargo nets if you don't have a trunk so nothing can fly forward from the back. If you have sun shades on your windows, they can only be the cling type, not the retractable ones with the big bar. This also means your pet needs to be secured, for your safety as well as theirs.
A good rule of thumb is if you couldn't throw it at someone's head without hurting them, it needs to be secured. This also applies to any toys you give your child to play with in the car as well, and if your big kid isn't in their booster and it's not attached with the LATCH system, strap that in as well.

17) The best install is the safest install.
 Neither the seatbelt nor LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) is safer than the other (and no, you can't use both). The middle of the backseat is safer than the side. However, the deciding factor in any of these is where and how you get the best installation. If it's the side with the seatbelt, or the middle with LATCH, that's what's best in your car. Also make sure if your car allows for LATCH borrowing. If it doesn't allow it, the seat can not be placed in the middle without it's own LATCH hooks. 

18) RTFM (Read the #^!&ing Manual)
Most car seats have a specific location for the manual on the seat so that it's kept with it at all times. That's because almost every single question you could have is listed in that little booklet, and the manufacturer's number is there for anything else. Use it. Even car seat pros utilize this booklet. Every single car seat is different with different rules, and this booklet (or the PDF of it online if you lost yours) is your golden ticket to proper car seat usage.

19) Buying/Using a used car seat
If you are considering using a second-hand car seat, use the checklist below. If you can check off each one of these statements, then the second-hand seat may be okay to use. If coming from a trusted source. 
  • The seat has never been involved accident.
  • The seat has labels stating date of manufacture and model number. You need this information to find out if there is a recall on the car seat or if the seat is too old.
  • The seat has no recalls. If you do find a recall on the car seat, you should contact the manufacturer as some problems can be fixed.
  • The seat has all its parts. If the seat is missing a part, contact the manufacturer as some parts can be ordered.
  • The seat has its instruction book. You can also order the instruction manual from the manufacturer.
  • The seat has been cleaned properly. Straps never submerged in water, cover properly cared for. You can get replacement straps and covers from the manufacture. 
20) When to replace a seat
NHTSA recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.

What defines a minor crash? A minor crash is one in which ALL of the following apply:
  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
  • None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
  • If the vehicle has air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash and
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

Never use a car seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.

21) Flying Bring the seat onboard or check it at the gate?  
Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is in a government-approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap?
A CRS is a hard-backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft.
The FAA has approved one harness-type restraint appropriate for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. This type of device provides an alternative to using a hard-backed seat and is approved only for use on aircraft. It is not approved for use in motor vehicles. Learn more about harness-type restraint.
The FAA strongly urges parents and guardians to secure children in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size. Keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.

Runway emergencies are just like car crashes, except at 150 mph rather than 30 mph. And most parents would pale at the thought of having their child on their laps going to the store at 30 mph, but think nothing of having their child on their lap on the plane at 150 mph.
At 150 mph your child would be your airbag, or they would go flying inside the cabin. A 20 pound child in a 150 mph crash would have 3,000 pounds of force to them. That's enough to be fatal to themselves, and whomever they impact.

In addition to the lack of safety for a child and the people nearby, there is a risk to checking a carseat. If you must check a carseat, put it in its original packaging with padding in the box. Or maybe another box with padding. And then gate check it (it's far more convenient to use the seat on board than to drag a big box to the gate). All too often I see parents check their carseats at the ticket counter, wrapped in nothing but a plastic bag to keep the cover clean. The cover being clean at the other end is the least of the concerns. The worst thing that can happen is that a carseat arrives at the other end with damage that cannot be seen. The only way to find out that there's damage is during or after a crash when the seat has failed. Or the seat is obviously broken when you pick it up. This is at least an obvious replacement, and so again, someone will have to go to a store and buy a new seat, but at least it's known that the seat is broken and should not be used.

From the FAA:
Did you know the safest place for your little one during turbulence or an emergency is in a government-approved child restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap?

From the AAP:
Occupant protection policies for children younger than 2 years on aircraft are inconsistent with all other national policies on safe transportation. Children younger than 2 years are not required to be restrained or secured on aircraft during takeoff, landing, and conditions of turbulence. They are permitted to be held on the lap of an adult. Preventable injuries and deaths have occurred in children younger than 2 years who were unrestrained in aircraft during survivable crashes and conditions of turbulence. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a mandatory federal requirement for restraint use for children
on aircraft.

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