Tuesday, January 31, 2012

After Market Products

So your in the store looking for the perfect car seat for your precious cargo and you see all the cute things you can add to your car seat. From seat protectors, seat covers, dangling toys, to mirrors, and even seat belt tighteners. The best thing to do is avoid these products. If it doesn't come in the box with your car seat its not been crash tested with your car seat. I know I know, it says on the packaging that it was crash tested. This is a marketing tool. When a car seat is tested it is put through rigorous testing that is federally regulated. The government says that all seats must pass these test. There is no governing body making sure these after market products are being tested. For all we know their testing includes that they threw it against the wall and it didnt break or dent the wall. They have no one above them making sure these products wont be deadly in a crash. Most car seats forbid these products to be used with their seat. They put it in the manual to not add any addition products to the car seat as it may cause injury to the child. Some of these products are not as bad as others and some might even be allowed by a manufacture. Manufactures differ on what is and isnt safe with their products and its important to read the manual to be sure what your particular seat allows.

Dangling Toys

Some of the little toys that hang from the handle of infant seats are better than others. Using soft toys that you wouldn't mind throwing at your child's head are not as worrisome as the hard plastic toys. These toys are fine to use outside of the car. Just remember that these toys can become projectiles in a crash, as with any loose item in your car.


Wether to use a mirror or not can sometimes be a tough choice for parents. I understand this, as a parent I had to make this tough choice. My youngest had reflux and was constantly spitting up. I was worried she would choke while I was driving. I made the parental choice to find a mirror I felt was secure and soft. I used it until she stopped spitting up. Many parents have to make this choice and its not easy. When faced with this choice make the best one you can. Use a mirror if you need to but try to find a soft flexible mirror that fastens to your vehicle as securely as possible. If you dont need it dont use it. Most children are fine without one.

Window Shades
Again another possible projectile. Avoid the kind with hard plastic parts. There are some that just cling to the window without any hard plastic parts. Like this product. These are a safer option to window shades.

Harness Strap Covers
If the harness strap covers do not come with your car seat do not use them. Most of the after market harness covers push the chest clip down on to the belly which is dangerous. They are also not tested with your car seat. They can interfere with the tightness of the harness. Even though it feels tight these harness covers could compress during a crash. Luckily many car seats provide their own crash tested harness cover straps with their seats. If this is an important feature for you then make sure you select a seat with harness cover straps.

Head Supporters
If your child's car seat doesn't come with a head support do not use an after market head support that interferes with the harness or goes behind the child's back. These can compress during a crash and give a false sense of tight harness straps.
So what do you do if you have a newborn with a floppy head and no head support? You can first check the recline on your infant seat. The infant seat s
hould be at a 45 degree angle for newborns. If this still doesn't resolve the issue then you may use rolled receiving blankets around the babies head.
Bunting Bags

There are safe and non safe bunting bags. You never want to use a bunting bag that goes behind the child's back and interferes with the harness. It can compress in a crash and give a false tightness of the harness. But one that fits like a shower cap over the seat is a safer option.

Car Seat Covers

There are companies that make covers for car seats. Although these are very cute they are not safe. They have not been crash tested with the car seat, they can compress during a crash, they can interfere with the harness, they do not have important warning labels on them, and they have not been treated with the flame retardants that are required by the federal motor vehicle safety standards.You should only purchase a cover from the manufacture of your child's car seat.

Seat Protectors

Some car seats allow for a THIN towel or blanket to be used under their car seats. You'll need to read your car seats manual to know this for sure. Thick seat protectors or seat protectors that are used on unapproved seats can be dangerous. They can compress in a wreck and give you a false tight installation.

Seat Belt Tightener

These are a BIG NO NO! Do not use one of these. You don't need to. If installing your seat correctly you will be able to achieve a tight install. Seat belt tighteners can over tighten your seat belt, break parts of your seat belt or car seat, and can possible break free in a crash and become a heavy projectile. They are not tested with your car seat and you shouldn't use them, nor do you need them. Seek help from a Child Passenger Safety Technician if you aren't getting a tight installation.

Many of these types of products are not safe and should not be used. It is likely that you don't even need them. So pass up the car seat accessory isle in the store, as tempting as it may be.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Booster Seats

The minimum to ride in a booster is 4yrs AND 40lbs. Children are typically not mature enough till 5-7 years old though. Children should not move out of their harness and into a booster until they are mature enough to remain seated 100% of the time. Louisiana law requires that children be 40lbs to ride in a booster.

How to Tell When Your Child has Out Grown Their Forward Facing Harness Seat

Each car seat comes with a weight limits for each stage the car seat can sit (rear facing, forward facing, and booster). Some come with a height limit. You should look in the car seat's manual to see what are the forward facing harness weight and height limit. Once your child reaches either of these they have out grown the car seat rear facing.
A forward facing harness seat is also out grown if the child's shoulders are above the top harness slot or the child's ears are even with the top of the top of the car seat.

Types of Boosters
There are two types of boosters. High back booster and a backless booster. Boosters range in weight and height limits. From 3yrs and 30lbs (which I would not recommend nor is it legal in Louisiana) to 63" and 120lbs.

High Back Booster

A High back booster is simply a booster with the back part. It looks very similar to a harness car seat but without the harness. High back booster are a great starting point when begining to booster a child. It feel more like a car seat which helps remind the child to sit correctly. Its great for kids who still fall asleep in the car. They can rest their heads on the side of the booster. It can also be easier to use with a child who needs the shoulder portion of the belt positioned with a belt guide. Most of the high back boosters on the market can have the back removed converting it into a backless booster.

Backless Booster

A backless booster is simply a booster without a back. These are great for older boostered kids, around 8yrs old. Most of these boosters come with a shoulder belt positioning clip. Its the little string with the clip on one end. This hooks to the back of the booster, runs along the child's back and hooks to the shoulder portion of the belt. It is adjusted so that the shoulder part of the belt fits correctly on the shoulder of the child. Follow your boosters manual on how to properly use this if the shoulder portion of the belt doesn't fit your child correctly.

  • A booster seat should NEVER be used with a lap belt only. This is very dangerous.
  • Never allow for a child to put the shoulder portion of the belt behind their backs. Putting a seat belt behind a child's back is the same as putting them in a lap only belt. You take away all their upper body protection.
  • When using a backless booster make sure there is adequate head support. The top of child's head should not be above the top of the seat. If possible adjust the head rest to be above the top of the child's head. If there is not adequate head support a high back booster is safer.
How to Use a Booster
Installation video (high back and backless)
Installation video (backless with shoulder belt positioning clip)
ALWAYS read over your child's car sea
t/booster manual!

Before buying a booster you should always try the booster out on your child first. Not every booster will offer the best fit for every child. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does offer a list of booster broken down into best bets, good bets, and not recommended. This is a good list to start with when researching boosters for your child. The best bets are more likely to fit an average child, not that a not recommended seat wont offer your child a good fit it is just more unlikely that it will.
The shoulder portion of the belt should rest across the collar bone, not on the neck and not falling off the shoulder. The lap portion of the belt should lay low on your child's hips or upper thighs, not on the child's tummy.
Products to Avoid

There are several products on the market that claim to offer proper belt fit but do not. You should avoid these products and never use them on a child. These products may say they are crash tested but there are no standards to hold these products to. These products do not offer correct fit and they can be deadly! Here are a few examples of these products:
Boosters with LATCH

Some booster come with lower LATCH. This does not aid in the protection of the child though. The lower LATCH anchors are to help the booster from becoming a projectile when the child isn't in it. A loose booster in a car wreck could fly around and hit someone in the car. This can cause injury to other passengers. Its important that you either use the LATCH anchors with your booster, only if your vehicle also allows boosters to be LATCHed check your vehicle manual, OR to buckle in unused boosters.
Combination seats (seats that harnesses then booster) sometimes allow you to use the LATCH while the seat is a booster. Check both your car and car seat manual to see if this is OK.

The Inflatable Booster

There are two inflatable booster on the market right now. The EasyCarSeat and the BubbleBum. The Easy Car Seat is a high back booster. This particular inflatable booster is not recommended. It often does not offer a good belt fit and it causes children to slip under the seat belt. The BubbleBum however is a highly recommended backless booster. It fits children well and offers proper protection in a crash. You can read a review here on the BubbleBum : http://carseatblog.com/10427/bubble-bum-review-booster-seat-or-flotation-device/

Boosters are for Big Kids

Seat belts are made to fit adult males. Seat belts are not meant to fit children. The job of a booster is to boost the child up so that the seat belt can fit them correctly. Children will normally need a booster till they are 4ft 9in tall. This is some where around 10-12 years old. It is also best that a child has reached puberty before riding without a booster. Prior to the time before puberty children do not have fully formed pelvises. The Iliac Crest is a part of the pelvis that forms during puperty. The Iliac Crest is the thickened and expanded bone rim at the upper border of the ilium. This part of the pelvis in adults helps hold the lap bet in position. Without it the seat belt can ride up on the belly and cause internal damage. This is also why a teenager or adult who is under 4ft 9in doesn't need a booster. They have a fully formed pelvis, children do not.

John's Story

John is the father of two daughters. His wife and kids were in a head on collision. His wife died instantly. His 7 year old daughter Merdith was not in a booster seat. She suffered life altering injuries. She will never walk or run again, she will never graduate high school and her injuries will be something she and her family will have to deal with daily for the rest of her life. A booster could have helped prevent her injuries.

How to Tell When a Child No Longer Needs a Booster

Your child needs to pass the 5 step test before they can ride without a booster. If you answer no to any of these 5 questions your child still needs a booster seat.

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?

Children need to ride in the back seat till they are at least 13 years of age. The back seat is twice as safe as the front seat!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Forward Facing

When your child is at least 2yrs old or has out grown their rear facing convertible car seat it is time for a harnessed forward facing car seat.

How to Tell When Your Rear Facing Car Seat is Out Grown

Each car seat comes with a weight limit for each stage the car seat can sit (rear facing, forward facing, and booster). Some come with a height limit. You should look in the car seat's manual to see what are the rear facing weight and height limit. Once your child reaches either of these they have out grown the car seat rear facing. A rear facing car seat is also out grown by height when there is less than one inch from the top of your child's head to the top of the car seats shell. Read how to measure this click here.

What Kind of Seats Forward Face

Convertible seats

Convertible seats are car seats that rear face and then can be turned forward facing. Once your child has outgrown this seat rear facing you can flip it around and use it forward facing. These seats normally have a forward facing weight limit of 40lbs- 65lbs.

3 in 1 car seats
3 in 1s or all in one car seats are car seats that will rear face, forward face, and booster. Although the selling point of only needing one car seat for your child their entire life is a nice tought, its not always a good option. Car seats have a life span or expiration date, and it is dangerous to use the seat after that date. Most of the time this is 6 years. If you use this seat from birth your child will not be ready to be without a seat by age 6. Another reason these seats do not make good seats is that they make poor boosters. Either they position the seat belt incorrectly or they are outgrown in booster mode at the same time they are outgrown by the harness. These seats may work for rear facing or for forward facing but they will likely not work when your child needs to be boostered and you will likely need to buy another seat.

Combination seats

Combination seats are car seats that have a 5 point harness that can be removed and used as a high back booster. These seats harness till 40lbs-90lbs depending on the seat. Some of these seats do have the ability to remove the back and make a backless booster.

Children should remain in a 5 point harness until they are at least 4yrs AND 40lbs according to Louisiana Law. Many combination seats have the ability to keep a child harnessed well past 4yrs AND 40lbs. It is best not to move a child into a booster before the child is ready. Many children are not ready at 4years old. Why?

  • Maturity. When seated in a booster the seat belt must lay on certain parts of the child's body. When a child is in a booster and they move too much the seat belt can become out of position. In a harness seat a child will for sure be seated correctly 100% of the time. This is a matter of maturity. This maturity is normally reached around 5-7 years old.
  • There is one study that shows that children who are under the age of 5 are safer in a harnessed seat than a booster seat. This study shows an increased risk of head/neck injury in children who are under the age of 5 and seated in a booster.
  • Children need to remain harnessed until they reach 40lbs. Our law requires children to be 40lbs before being put into a booster.
Once a child is 5 years old, 40lbs, and can sit properly in a booster 100% of the time there is nothing showing that a harness seat is safer than a booster seat. Or showing that a booster is safer than a harness seat.
Remember when shopping for a car seat the best car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your car, and will be used correctly 100% of the time. All seats are held to the same federal safety standards (FMSS 213). This makes all seats equally as safe as the next seat, regardless of price. Price is normally based on brand name, ease of use, and extra features such as cup holders, padding, and how easy it is to install. NHTSA has issued an Ease of Use Rating for every car seat. You can search for a seat on their Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings.

Belle's Story

Belle was a 3 years old when her family was in a car wreck. Belle was sitting next to her 7 year old sister, both in boosters. Belle's booster failed her because she was too young to be in a booster. Belle was fatally injured while her sister walked away from the wreck. To read more about Belle visit http://isabelle-broadhead.memory-of.com/About.aspx

How to Place Your Child in a Forward Facing Car Seat

Before installing your car seat into the car you will need to make sure that the harness is in the correct position for your child. For convertible seats check with the car seat manual to see which harness slots are allowed to be used when forward facing. When a 5 point harness car seat is used forward facing the harness should be AT OR ABOVE the child's shoulders, it should be tight and able to pass the pinch test, the harness shouldn't be twisted, and the chest clip should be even with the arm pit.

Here are some videos on Extended Harnessing (extended harnessing (EH) is when a child remains harnessed past their 4th birthday)
Crash test video of a harness dumby vs a boostered dumby
Importance of Extended Harnessing

How to Tell When Your Child has Out Grown Their Forward Facing Harness Seat

Each car seat comes with a weight limits for each stage the car seat can sit (rear facing, forward facing, and booster). Some come with a height limit. You should look in the car seat's manual to see what are the forward facing weight and height limit. Once your child reaches either of these they have out grown the car seat forward facing.
A forward facing harness seat is also out grown if the child's shoulders are above the top harness slot or the child's ears are even with the top of the top of the car seat.