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Mythbusting: Legs bent or feet touching the backseat when rear-facing is dangerous

Welcome to our Mythbusters Series. Each week we will explore a new myth regarding kids and carseats.

Myth #2: My child’s legs will be injured in a crash if their feet are touching the back of the seat or if their legs are bent. 

This is a very common and very persistent myth.  Child Passenger Safety Technicians spend a lot of time talking to parents about this subject.

Diono Rainier - Clara  Kecia's DS2 rear-facing at 3 years old and 33 lbs

rxt-ds2-rf-2  Toddler rf close to 30* in 2008 Civic

CONFIRMED, PLAUSIBLE, or BUSTED?

In reality, during a frontal crash (the most common type of crash), the legs will fly up and away from the back seat. It’s also much more important to protect the head, neck and spinal cord in a crash which is exactly what rear-facing carseats do so well. If you’re still not convinced – there is this study by CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) that looked at injuries to children ages 1 – 4 who were hurt in crashes and leg injuries were rare for those kids in rear-facing seats. However, injuries to the lower extremity region were the second most common type of injury for the kids in forward-facing seats. That’s because the legs of a child in a forward-facing seat are thrown forward and often hit the hard center console or the back of the front seat. Study quote: “Injuries below the knee were the most common, particularly to the tibia/fibula, and they most often occurred due to interaction with the vehicle seatback in front of the child’s seating position.”

This myth is definitely BUSTED.

Rear-facing for best protectionIMG_0798

RF in ETA  E rf side view

The video below is part of the curriculum for training new Child Passenger Safety Technicians. In the video, Dr. Marilyn J. Bull, MD, outlines the reasons why rear-facing is so important and also addresses the concerns many parents have about children with longer legs.

Last but not least, we should address the issue of comfort since that’s another big hang-up that adults seem to have with older kids.  The reality is that while *we* might not be happy if we had to sit this way for prolonged periods, kids will always find a way to make themselves comfortable. They might sit “criss-cross-applesauce”, or they might stretch their legs straight out and prop them up, or they might even dangle them over the sides of the carseat. Regardless of how they make themselves comfortable – they will find a way to be comfortable.

And remember – these kids didn’t wake up one morning with an extra 5″ of legs. Every day is the same as yesterday except maybe you’re a millimeter taller today. Kids don’t notice growing – and when they grow enough to warrant a shift in how they position their legs to sit rear-facing, they will make the adjustment without even thinking about it.

Do I look uncomfortable

 

 

Mythbusting: Once a 5-stepper, Always a 5-stepper.

While I may not be as intelligent as Jamie Hyneman, or as adorable as Kari Byron, I’ve been recruited back to CarseatBlog after a not-so-brief graduate school hiatus to do a little mythbusting—carseat style. So as a sort of geek-worship homage to Jamie, Adam, and the MythBusters crew—let’s get busting.

Myth #1: Once my child “passes” the 5-step test, they are done with boosters once and for all.

This myth comes straight out of my vast repertoire of personal experience as a mom of four.  This past Friday, I was recruited to drive my husband out of town for work.  While typically we would pile into the family minivan, it was a gorgeous Arizona day and I decided to take my 18 year old son’s little 5-speed Mazda.  Kyle’s little Mazda is great on gas and he has been safely transporting his 11 year old brother without a booster for the last few months, despite Aiden still needing a booster in our Odyssey.  As I reached the front door, I paused for a moment while Aiden’s old Paul Frank Clek Olli caught my eye over in the corner of the livingroom.  Should I…Should I not? It seems like just yesterday that Kecia outlined the 5-Step Test, using my oldest son Kyle as one of her models. Let’s do a quick review…

Kyle - 5-Step

Kyle – Passing the 5-Step Test, Circa 2009

Check…Check…Check…Check…Ut-oh.  While Aiden had been on some great adventures within our lakeside HOA community, his travels in the little Mazda had thus far been limited to a few miles here or there.  As I headed out the door for a two hour trek from Phoenix into Pinal County, I grabbed the trusty Clek Olli. In the minutes prior to arriving at our destination, a black cloud approached that would eventually result in one of the worst dust storms I have ever driven in.  Returning home with two sleeping kids, with highway visibility sometimes limited to 20 or 30 feet and in winds that were clocked at up to 60 miles per hour, I was confident in my decision to re-booster Aiden.  Because Aiden was never promoted to an adult seatbelt, returning to his booster didn’t seem like a demotion, either.

CONFIRMED, PLAUSIBLE, or BUSTED? I think that we can safely say that this myth is BUSTED. While your child may pass all five steps under certain conditions, longer drives, different cars, or other circumstances can change. And even though Aiden fits into the little Mazda seatbelt well, there’s no harm in him continuing to use an appropriately-fitting booster at this point. aidenprotegewm

 

Happy Independence Day from your friends at CarseatBlog!

Happy 4th of July

Uniformed and Uninformed?

Fire helmetLike many of you, I spend a lot of time on various social media sites dedicated to car seats. When a parent says she’s taking her car seat to be checked at a police or fire station, inevitably she will get the following two statements in return:

“Not all firefighters or police officers are technicians, so make sure you get someone certified.”

And

“Be careful. A lot of firefighters/police officers who are technicians aren’t very good ones.”

The first comment is true. Most firefighters and police officers are not CPSTs, so it’s important to seek out people who are certified. (Check Safe Kids database and the list at car-seat.org.) A random police officer might be more than happy to help install a seat, but without the proper training, he or she may do more harm than good.

But what about the second statement, that firefighters and police officers often aren’t “good” technicians? Is there any truth in that statement? The answer is very complex.

I have worked with many, many excellent technicians who are firefighters or police officers. But I have also had many parents come to me after receiving bad (or even dangerous) advice from public safety CPSTs. Why is this?

Although most firefighters and police officers aren’t techs, a good chunk of techs are firefighters or police officers. That means that if someone’s had a bad experience, it was likely that they had a public-safety tech simply because that was their only option. (If thousands of plumbers were trained as CPSTs, then most complaints would be about plumbers due to sheer volume.)

It’s also important to recognize that there is often a big difference between technicians who work for agencies and technicians who don’t. Cops and firefighters who become techs often do so because they had to, and they may or may not have car-seat-aged children of their own. The technicians who tend to frequent Facebook groups and car-seat.org are usually coming from a different place. Many of them chose to become certified because of a passion, often to keep their own children safe.

That’s not to say there isn’t overlap, and it’s certainly true that many people who “had to” become techs develop a passion for it, or at least an appreciation for it.

So when a parent says a firefighter told her she had to turn her child forward-facing even though he could still rear-face, or a police officer told her she could LATCH a seat beyond the weight limit, what are we to think?

First, it’s possible the “technician” isn’t a technician, or is perhaps one whose certification has expired.

Another possibility is that the person is a current tech who doesn’t have a good grasp of particular seats or current recommendations. And that is where the real conundrum lies. Why aren’t these techs more informed? A lot of it comes down to the time they can afford to spend on car-seat-related issues.

My husband was a fireman for more than 30 years. He always cringes at the perception of firefighters lazing around the station playing checkers, because the reality is quite different.

hoseDuring any 24-hour shift, his unit could be involved in several activities including fire inspections at local businesses, school programs, station tours, flushing fire hydrants, maintaining fire apparatus, and writing reports. He also had several certifications he needed to keep current, involving federal and local training requirements for firefighting and EMS (including CPR). Those each involve several hours and require keeping up with protocol changes and updates. That’s all on top of putting out fires, cutting people out of crashed vehicles, and trying to revive heart-attack victims.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time to read up on the newest high-weight-harness seats or the latest AAP statements. I can spend hours each week on reading up on the latest trends but a firefighter likely can’t, even if he or she would really like to.

Another problem is that Child Passenger Safety isn’t a high priority for many departments. Car crashes pose a far greater risk to children than residential fires do,  yet departments are more likely to spend time and money educating people about fire escape routes and Stop, Drop, and Roll. When programs need to be cut, Child Passenger Safety might be the first to go. Because of that, it might be difficult for technicians to get time off work to attend a CEU class needed for recertification.

Yet another issue is that the requirements to be a technician are really quite low. Granted, I haven’t read the new curriculum, but the one I certified under was very basic. (A lot of material was covered, but the open-book quizzes didn’t do much to help the information sink in.) The requirements for CEUs (essentially six hours of work over a two-year period) is laughable. Not much can be learned and retained in that amount of time. Raising the standards would probably make for better technicians, but it would also make for fewer technicians. It’s a matter of quality vs. quantity, and I’m not sure it’s possible to find a happy middle ground.

Police officer fingerprintMy point is this: I have yet to meet a firefighter or police officer who wasn’t dedicated to protecting the public. No public safety officer wants to see kids get hurt, and they risk their lives every day doing their best to keep them safe. If a police/fire CPST isn’t familiar with a particular seat or recommendation, it’s probably not that they don’t care; it’s probably that they don’t know, and the reason they don’t know might be because they’re already stretched so thin with other responsibilities.

Ideally, all technicians would hold vast amounts of knowledge and experience. Ideally parents should be able to take their seat to any tech and know with 100% confidence that they will drive away with their seat perfectly installed. Ideally, parents wouldn’t need technicians at all because ideally seats would be easy enough to install without help.

The reality is that every tech—no matter how informed or how experienced or who they work for—is capable of making a mistake. As much as parents want to rely on the firefighter or cop or CPST-plumber or CPST-stay-at-home-mom, ultimately parents are responsible for their own child’s safety. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers or easy ways to guarantee that every tech will be a “good” one. Parents need to know that if a tech’s advice or installation seem wrong, it’s okay to question authority and get a second opinion, either from a different tech or online