Monday marks the first day of Child Passenger Safety Week. This week, and every week of the year, Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs,) work to ensure that all children ride safely no matter the vehicle.
Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death and serious injuries for children and yet many people approach car seat safety as an afterthought. A CPST is always happy to help answer any questions you might have, but here are some tips to help you get off on the right foot!
Pick the Right Seat
Make sure you understand the differences between the different types of car seats. Remember the best seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and is used properly EVERY time – there are safe and recommended car seats for every child and every budget:
- Rear-Facing Only (aka infant carrier) – can only be installed rear-facing and can fit babies from 4 lbs. and 16 ins. all the way up to 40 lbs. and 35 ins. depending on the seat.
- Convertible – can be installed rear-facing and forward-facing and can be used in place of or as a next step up from a rear-facing only. Many newer seats will easily accommodate children from infancy all the way to booster readiness. Children should remain rear-facing to a minimum of age 2.
- Combination – forward-facing only seat that suits children who have outgrown their convertible seat. They can also convert from a harnessed seat to a highback and even backless booster. Not appropriate for children younger than 2.
- Booster – comes in both highback and backless forms. Boosters require children to have the size and maturity to sit correctly and have a good seatbelt fit. Does not include harnessed option. Children should use a booster until they pass the 5 step test. (link for 5 step test
- Multi-mode – seats that will rear-face, forward-face, and convert to booster mode.
Actually READ the Manuals
Studies have found that as high as 90% of all seats are installed or used incorrectly. Much of this misuse could be prevented by reading both the car seat manual and vehicle manual thoroughly. Some frequent points of misuse to be aware of:
- Not registering your seat to stay updated about recalls or safety alerts.
- Harness does not pass the pinch test.
- Harness is not adjusted to the right height. Harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders for rear-facing and at or above for forward-facing.
- Seat installed with both seatbelt and LATCH. The majority of seats specify that only one or the other may be used. Using both is prohibited and unsafe.
- Not discontinuing use of lower anchors when the weight limit has been reached.
- Not paying attention to minimum and maximum weight and height limits. Seats have these limits for a reason. Using a seat outside of the limits means you are using a seat that has either never been tested for a child of that size or was tested and failed.
- Cleaning the seat incorrectly. Following the manual for guidelines is essential to maintaining the integrity of the seat.
- Ignoring expiration dates. You wouldn’t drink expired milk, why would you trust your child’s safety to an expired car seat.
- Not using the seat EVERY TIME you travel (even on an airplane!)
Get Your Seat Checked
Scheduling a check with a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician is a great way to confirm you are doing things correctly and you understand how to use and install your seat.
- Contact Rocket City Car Seat Safe for a free private check and follow us on Facebook for tips and tricks for keeping your little ones safe in the car HERE.
- Make an appointment for a check at Huntsville Safe Kids at Huntsville Hospital HERE.
- Make an appointment for a check at Huntsville Pediatric Associates’ monthly seat checks HERE.
- Visit Safe Kids Worldwide to find a tech in your area.
Being a Car Seat Tech is not a get-rich quick endeavor. The CPSTs in Madison County and around the country (and world!,) do it because they have a passion for keeping children safe. A check is never meant to make a parent or caregiver feel badly or embarrass anyone. Think of our work as a judgment-free helping hand to you while you do your MOST IMPORTANT work.