Confession – I am crazy about car seats. As a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) and technician instructor, I have spent the better part of the past five years teaching about, researching or installing car seats. It has become a passion. And now, as a new mom, I’m able to take a step back and view the field from a new perspective.
It started with that first time we placed the baby in the car seat. One of the most important steps we remind parents about is tightening the harness straps. We techs make it sound so easy – the straps should be snug enough that you cannot pinch the harness straps together. Well, there I was, the new parent, attempting to place my tiny, squirmy, sleepy newborn into her car seat without pinching, squishing or causing her to scream. We were successful, but it took me about ten minutes to get her situated. (Point of reference – it took less than ten minutes to install the car seat). The whole process became much easier once we were a little less afraid of breaking the baby.
Another common education point is about the “aftermarket” products that parents so often place in their car or on their car seats – mirrors, toys, mats, etc. We techs generally discourage these products because they have not been crash tested by the car seat manufacturer. There is no way to know how the products will interact with each other in a crash. I have talked with many parents about the need to remove the little mirrors on the headrest in front of a rear-facing infant. It all makes perfect sense to the car seat tech in me. And then my baby had her first full-fledged meltdown in the car, while I was driving by myself on the interstate. At that moment, when she was screaming at the top of her lungs, I finally appreciated why everyone is so crazy about those mirrors.
A few other safety points about car seats:
- They are one of two baby items that should absolutely be purchased new (cribs being the second).
- They have an expiration date – typically six years from the date of manufacture.
- They should not be used after most crashes. When you purchase a used car seat you may not get the full and complete history of that product, so will not know if it can be relied on in a crash.
If you are ever in doubt about the installation of your car seat or the fit of your child in the car seat, call on a car seat technician. You are not alone – studies have shown that nearly 85 percent of car seats are not properly installed. There are nearly 35,000 techs all across the country. We all care passionately about the safety of children in vehicles and want to help our communities.
Car crashes continue to be the leading cause of injury death for young children, and research has shown the effectiveness of properly using child restraints. Proper use of child restraints can save lives!
Learn more about about child passenger safety and the car seat services offered by Children’s Hospital.