Parenting Archive

Staying Afloat

Most people know me as a child passenger safety advocate, but few know that before I developed my obsession with car seats, my child-safety passion revolved around drowning prevention. With summer fast approaching, the topic is more pertinent than ever.

There are many steps people can–and should–take to prevent drownings. Fences, alarms, pool covers, and, of course, parental supervision. Another layer of protection comes from teaching children how to swim. If your young children don’t already know how to swim, please consider enrolling them in lessons.

This has been a bit of a controversial topic in the past. For a long time the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against swimming lessons for children under age 4. They said there was no proof that swimming lessons for smaller children did any good. They also worried that parents wouldn’t watch their kids as closely if they thought their kids could swim.

The problem is that it’s very difficult to prove a negative. How can we demonstrate that a child didn’t drown because that child had taken swimming lessons, or that they would have died had they not taken lessons?

It’s also true that some parents probably would become complacent and not watch their kids around water because they figure their child is “drown-proof,” but that is where emphasis on parental supervision needs to come in.

Last year the AAP did wind up revising their recommendations to include swimming lessons for children over age 1. They still wouldn’t be thrilled with my having enrolled both of my children in lessons at six months–again because there’s no proof it helps–but they do now believe that toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from learning to swim or learning water survival skills.

I liken swimming lessons to teaching kids how to cross the street. You don’t want a 2-year-old crossing the street alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t talk to him about it. You tell him not to run into traffic, to cross while holding hands with an adult, and to look both ways. You certainly never expect him to be alone next to a street street, but if he ever is, maybe there’s a chance that he’ll remember your lessons.

The same goes for water. We never expect our children to be near a pool, river, lake, or ocean by themselves, but even the most attentive, careful parents have lapses or miscommunications. If young children find themselves near water, isn’t it better that they have learned about potential dangers? If they wind up in the water, isn’t it better that they have learned skills that might save their lives?

Of course knowing how to swim or get out of a pool is only one aspect of a cohesive system of safeguards. I like the “Safer 3″ approach to pool safety:

  • Safer Water: Install barriers and maintain safety equipment
  • Safer Kids: Have constant adult supervision and teach kids to swim
  • Safer Response: Know CPR and first aid, and have a phone with you at all times

In the coming months, play safe around the water, buckle up, stay hydrated, and try not to get a sunburn. (I have already failed on that last point–hopefully you’ll be luckier.) Most of all, enjoy time with your family and have a fun-filled summer!

It Was 10 Years Ago Today

It was back in 1999 when I became frustrated with child safety seats. My son was born in 1998. We had a Century Smart Fit Plus infant carrier and extra base. It fit well enough in my car and an extra base seemed to fit fine in my wife’s car, too. The following year, I moved my son into a rear-facing convertible. 

I went right back to Century and bought a SmartMove convertible seat. I had some problems installing it. Well, I couldn’t install it. Little did I know at the time that the SmartMove was one of the most difficult child safety seats to install and that my car (a 1991 Saturn SL2 sedan) was one of the more difficult vehicles for installation, too. That combination made it impossible for me to get it installed correctly. As an engineer, I was astonished that cars and carseats could be designed so poorly that they simply would not work together.

I went to the internet. I searched. I posted on the usenet Saturn newsgroup and elsewhere. I found a toll free number for the helpful people at NHTSA’s Dash-2-dot line. I ended up returning the Smartmove and buying a Britax Roundabout that worked much better.  The Evenflo Horizon V and Fisher Price Safe Embrace were also suggested to me as options that might work.  Funny thing about the internet. Everything is archived!  I even had the seat inspected at my local police department.

That episode began my interest in child passenger safety.  After my son was 1 year and 20 pounds, I turned him forward facing in a Cosco High Back Booster with a 5-point harness, at the time a top-rated model in a leading consumer magazine!  I didn’t like it very much.  How could such a highly rated model be so difficult for an average parent to install and use? 

I then became very interested in the upcoming LATCH system that promised better compatibility.  I decided to make a web page about it.  In fact, I decided to make a few webpages to help parents find the same resources that I found to be helpful.  I also wanted to create a discussion forum where parents could ask questions without having to register and without having to see any pop-ups or other advertisements.  That High Back Booster was eventually replaced by a LATCH-equipped Century Next Step DX.  I liked that seat enough that I wrote my first carseat review about it!

On April 8th, 2001, I registered http://www.car-safety.org/ and http://www.car-seat.org/ forums and they went live within 24-48 hours after that.  Later that year, I attended my first CPS conference, became certified as a technician and also become co-ordinator of our county’s Safe Kids program.   It’s now 10 years later, and these websites are now among the busiest independent websites on the topic!  In March, just the forum alone generated over 220,000 unique visitors who viewed 7.6 million pages of information!  Car-Safety.org compiled over 61,000 unique visitors who viewed nearly 100,000 pages of information in March.

In 2007, I started CarseatBlog (almost 50,000 unique visitors and nearly 200,000 pages in March), though we didn’t start blogging regularly until the next year.  Also in 2007, I had to begin accepting subscriptions and advertising, as hosting costs for the websites had become too expensive to continue to pay on my own.  You can still post a question without registration, though thanks to spammers, there is a delay from when you submit a guest post to the time when it appears to the public after being approved by a moderator.

Anyone interested can read more facts about the forums in this post.  There is also some history of the forums posted here.  Thank you to every single visitor and member who has made Car-Seat.Org a success!  Its main goal remains the same as 10 years ago.  To help parents find the information they need to protect their children from their #1 cause of fatal injury!

Rear-Facing Until 2 Years Old: Why Not?

Any time a new recommendation from anything resembling an “authority” is released regarding the welfare of children, critics come out in droves to decry the advice. Sometimes, they have a legitimate concern. Other times, their reasoning is inherently flawed or purely emotional. For a background, be sure to read about the new AAP recommendations and check out the Rear Facing Link Guide for references. In this blog, Heather, Kecia and I put together some answers to fourteen popular questions:

1.) Won’t my toddler be uncomfortable facing the back? No, he or she will be just fine. Most toddlers are actually more comfortable rear-facing because the carseat is reclined and it’s much more comfortable to sleep that way than sitting upright in the forward-facing position. Plus they can prop up their feet instead of having them dangle unsupported.

2.) Won’t their feet or legs be injured because they are bent or crossed or touching the back of the seat?  No, but this is a very big misconception among parents. 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 can hit the 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.”

Confused about the new AAP carseat & booster recommendations? START HERE!

Welcome to CarseatBlog.com!  You’re here so you’ve obviously heard about the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding carseats and boosters.  Perhaps you saw something on the news today or read a comment on facebook.  You might be a little (or a lot) confused right now and are looking for some accurate info and helpful advice.  We’re here to help!  Consider us your tour guides in the confusing but wonderful world of Child Passenger Safety.

These are the new recommendations from the AAP:

  • Keep kids rear-facing until at least their 2nd Birthday (keeping them rear-facing beyond age 2 is fine also if they haven’t maxed out their convertible carseat in the rear-facing position by either weight or height).
  • Once the child has maxed out the convertible seat in the rear-facing position – turn them forward-facing but keep them in the 5-point harness until they reach the maximum weight or height limits for that particular seat.
  • Don’t rush to “graduate” kids into booster seats before it’s necessary but do use a booster seat once the child has legitimately outgrown the harnessed carseat.  Every seat has different weight or height limits so make sure you understand what those limits are for your seat(s).  Some child safety seats are “combination seats” which can be used initially with the 5-point harness and then the harness is removed after it’s outgrown and the seat is used as a booster using the vehicle’s adult seatbelt system (lap/shoulder belt).
  • Keep kids in a booster seat until they reach at least 4′ 9″ tall (57″) and the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt fits them properly.  See our blog on The 5-Step Test to help you determine if your older child can ride safely in your vehicle using just the seatbelt.
  • Keep kids out of the front seat until they are TEENAGERS  (and yes, we realize that most 9-11 year olds think they’re teenagers and may act accordingly but they are not actually teenagers and they need to sit in the back seat).  Truthfully, many of these tweens still need to use a booster in order for the seatbelt to fit them properly.  I know what many parents may say about this but I’ve been through this with my oldest child who is now almost 14 and please trust me when I say, “they’ll live”.  And if you’re unlucky enough to crash with them in the vehicle – they’ll live without potentially devastating internal injuries caused by an adult seatbelt that didn’t fit them properly or wasn’t worn properly.

To Worry or Not to Worry?

When it comes to carseats there are lots of things you do need to worry about like making sure the carseat is properly installed and that the harness straps are snug and positioned correctly.  But here’s a brief list of things that you DON’T need to worry about when it comes to rear-facing toddler and older kids:

Guest Blog: The latest, the greatest, and the safest.

I’ve always had to have the latest and greatest when it came to my family’s vehicles.  The new Sienna came out, and I was there.  Then the Odyssey Touring finally had my beloved (and often behated) 8th seat–guess what?  I was there!  And when you think about what vehicle manufacturer is hands-down considered creator of the safest fleet on the road, you think Volvo right?  Guess what DH drives?  Yup, I’m a safety geek through and through.

BLI to OAK via SEA

BLI to OAK via SEA

Our teenaged son will be driving next year, and I’ve spent hours, days, and perhaps even weeks, going through various safety ratings and reading reviews on all of the potential new driveway jewelry on his list.  I’m agonizing over all of the options, all the while balancing safety, fuel economy and style.  Is there a perfect car?  One that looks great, sips at the tank, AND can propel into a brick wall at 80mph without so much as a scratch on my beloved offspring?

But what could top that Volvo XC90 and Odyssey Touring in the driveway?  In fact, what vehicle could have me giving up my much-loved XC90 for something new?  What could be safer than Tank Volvo, right?  And why did I just travel 900 miles to find said vehicle?  Better yet–will I ever allow my teens to drive it?



We’ve had to make a few compromises.  Life is full of compromises.  Not everyone can afford the 2011 Odyssey Touring–some of us are stuck babying that 1995 Plunko Calciomamma with 7 passenger seating and 4 top tether anchors…for just a few more years. (Fingers crossed.)  The new Quassmobile has air conditioning and power doorlocks and windows–heck, it even has power mirrors.  But, a few things are missing–like top tethers.  It has none.  Zero.  Ziltch.  It’s also shy a few airbags as compared to my Odyssey–but what vehicle isn’t, right?  Okay, I have to admit–the Quassmobile is completely absent of airbagage.  Again–zero, ziltch..Naaada.

Mason w/ Porsche (Photo: Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun)

Mason w/ Porsche (Photo: Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun)

My new car is fun to drive, will tow the kids’ boat, and can navigate well off the beaten track.  Every dollar we’re able to bank by “downgrading” our vehicle is another dollar we can put towards buying the latest and greatest once again–but for the next chapter in our lives.  I gained the Quassmobile, and sometime in the next 12 months our oldest son will be behind the wheel of his own new car–and I full well anticipate that one will be nicknamed the Airbagmobile.