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Safety Archive

Why New Parents Get it Wrong

Most expectant parents spend countless hours making sure everything for the new baby is just right. They paint the nursery, pick coordinating crib sets, pour over catalogs and roam stores looking for the perfect coming-home outfit, type up their birth plan, and misuse swaddledebate names for weeks.

Yet as soon as these parents put their baby in the car for the first time, almost all of them make at least one critical mistake. Car seat advocates and experts have known this for a long time, but a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics is highlighting it again: Almost all car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly.

After checking the usage of more than 250 families being discharged from a hospital in Oregon, researchers found that 93% of them made a serious error with their car seats. Nearly 70% left the harness too loose, and 43% didn’t install the seat tight enough. Thirty-six percent had a seat adjusted to an incorrect angle, and 34% positioned the chest clip too low. Other misuse included having the harness straps in the wrong position and using unapproved after-market products.

Why do doting new parents misuse seats like this? That’s a question safety advocates have asked for a long time. Usually it’s not because they don’t care; it’s because they don’t know.

Many parents fail to read the manual that comes with their car seat. I know manuals can be tedious and boring, but when it comes to a piece of safety equipment, it’s necessary. Just do it!

Another reason is that car seats are confusing. If they were easy, we wouldn’t need to have certified technicians to help people with their seats. Again, much of the confusion can be cleared up by reading the manual, but even that can’t solve everything. Car seats often need to be demonstrated, not just talked about on paper.

Finally, a lot of people just don’t understand crash dynamics. Most people have never been in a serious or even moderate crash. They don’t understand how strong crash forces can be, and what kind of effect they can have on a human being—especially a tiny one. It’s certainly not something I had thought about until I became involved in child passenger safety, and even now it’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around. Many parents just don’t understand the lifesaving role a car seat can provide, and how that safety can be compromised by not using them correctly.

How can new parents be better prepared? Here are some tips to help reduce the most common mistakes.

  • Read the manual! Really.pileomanuals
  • For rear-facing seats, the harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders—not above.
  • Tighten the harness so you can’t pinch any webbing between your fingers at the collarbone. On most seats, you’ll want to pull up excess slack from the hip area before tightening.
  • The chest clip should be level with the baby’s armpits. That puts the clip over the strongest part of the baby’s torso—not on the neck, and not on the tummy.
  • Install the seat with the seatbelt OR lower anchors, not both (unless your seat and vehicle both explicitly allow it, which is rare).
  • If you use lower anchors (LATCH) make sure the position in the car allows for it. Most vehicles don’t have dedicated LATCH anchors in the center seating position, and most don’t allow for borrowing outboard anchors for use in the middle (check your manuals).
  • Check to make sure your seat is installed tightly enough. Use your non-dominant hand to give a firm tug where the seatbelt or LATCH strap goes through. As long as the seat moves less than an inch, the installation is tight. It’s important to check for movement ONLY at the belt path. Checking at the top of the seat will make the installation seem looser than it is, and will probably wind up loosening up an otherwise good installation.
  • Check the side of your seat to make sure the angle is correct for a newborn. Some seats have a line that needs to be level to the ground, while others have indicators that include balls, bubbles, or colored disks that show how reclined the seat is. For newborns, the seat should be at or close to the maximum allowed recline.
  • If you’re using a rear-facing-only or infant seat, make sure the handle is in an allowed position in the car. Some seats require the handle to be up, some require it to be down, and some allow any position, so read the manual to find out what’s allowed on your seats.
  • Don’t use aftermarket accessories unless they’re specifically approved by the car seat manufacturer. Also, don’t attach hard or heavy toys to the handle of the seat while it’s in the car.
  • Don’t swaddle your baby or use heavy jackets or snowsuits in the car. Check our tips for winter weather to learn more.
  • Make an appointment with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician before your child is born. A good technician will teach you to install and use your seat properly. A list of CPSTs can be found here, and car-seat.org also maintains a list of techs among its members.
  • Read the manual!

Aton 2 Declan

If you’re expecting, you’re probably doing everything you can to make sure your baby enters the world as safely as possible. Don’t skimp on safety once he or she is out of the womb.

Mythbusting: Infant seats are bubbles of protection

Next time you’re standing on that wiggly kitchen stool, changing yet another lightbulb…don’t forget what Sir Isaac taught us. So what do you think—does gravity find babies attractive, too? CONFIRMED? PLAUSIBLE? BUSTED? Ten pounds of feathers, ten pounds of bricks, or ten pounds of baby—gravity doesn’t discriminate.

Earlier this year, Home Depot employee Chris Strickland was launched to notoriety when his quick actions saved an infant from a three-foot tumble off of the top of a shopping cart. Unfortunately, not all babies have a guardian angel like Mr. Strickland looking out for them. The Internet is full of stories from parents and on-lookers about children falling from carts. In 2011, a three month old infant died after falling from a shopping cart. While we know that carseats save lives, it’s easy to understand why parents believe that their children are also protected while “clicked” in their infant seats into place on the top of a shopping cart. And while videos of people pouring ice water over their heads to avoid donating to charity explode on the Internet, stories like Kristin Auger’s barely garner public attention.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 11.01.26 PMWhen we think about children being injured or killed in carseats, we typically think about car crashes. Researchers in British Columbia collected 5 years of child restraint-related injury data (N=95), published in this 2008 Pediatrics International article, that should have you re-evaluating this exclusive assumption. While this article was intended to address carseat misuse, it does so in the context of out-of-vehicle use. The authors concluded that “among all infants, falls were a common mechanism of injury resulting from CRS misuse” and urged for preventative efforts to help educate parents and caregivers on out-of-vehicle child restraint injuries. In this study, 6% of subjects had been injured in falls from shopping carts…all of which were completely preventable.

I took a field trip to a local Target to snap a photo of the warnings parents see on each and every cart, warning them against placing carseats on carts…

Shopping Cart "Warning"

Shopping Cart “Warning”

….is it any wonder parents are still confused?

 

Myth…BUSTED!

 

 

 

 

Watch the shocking Home Depot video where not only does the carseat tip from the cart, but the infant wasn’t buckled in the carseat:

Recaro ProSport Recall: What to Do for Owners

Recaro ProSportToday NHTSA issued a recall of the Recaro Prosport, following a non-compliance notice issued in April. We have more details about the performance related non-compliance issue in our earlier blog.  The details of the recall notice from NHTSA can be found here.  Affected are all 39,181 Recaro ProSport model #385 child restraints, manufactured from June 16, 2010, through January 31, 2013.  Recaro will notify registered owners and will provide, at no cost, a label to affix over the existing information label and a complete set of new instructions informing owners to discontinue use of the LATCH system when the weight of the child reaches 40 pounds. The campaign is expected to begin during August 2014. Owners may contact Recaro at 1-888-973-2276.

ProSport II and Performance Sport models are NOT affected, as we are told these newer models were introduced after a design change effective from February 1, 2013. The updated Performance Sport model continues to be one of our Recommended Carseats.

If you are a current ProSPORT owner, we suggest taking the following steps to ensure that your child is well protected in a crash until you receive an official recall notification/remedy from Recaro:

  • DO NOT use the lower LATCH anchors for installation above 40 pounds
  • DO read the instruction manual and labels that came with your ProSport (or any updated replacements sent by Recaro) and make sure you are installing it correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • DO tether the seat at all times, Recaro now recommends that you ALWAYS use the top tether when using the ProSPORT with a 5-point harness*
  • DO install the seat with a lap/shoulder seatbelt if your child weighs more than 40 lbs.
  • DO register your seat with Recaro or update your registration information if you have moved since you first bought the seat.

* Previously Recaro USA limited top tether use to 52 pounds.  I have confirmed that, “There is an official change that allows tether use up to the maximum weight limits of the RECARO combination seat models unless there is a top tether load limit stated in the vehicle manual from the vehicle manufacturer. RECARO also recommends always using the top tether with a forward-facing seat using an internal harness, and this would be retroactive.”  Please contact Recaro USA for additional guidance on this issue.

Recaro USA makes the following statement:

Dear Valued RECARO ProSPORT Owner,

This notice is in accordance with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. RECARO Child Safety, LLC has determined that the RECARO ProSPORT child restraints manufactured from June 16th, 2010 to January 31st, 2013 fail to conform to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 571.213 Child Restraint Systems. Our records indicate that you have either submitted registration for, or contacted our customer service team, regarding a ProSPORT manufactured in this period.

The ProSPORT failed to meet required head excursion limits set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when tested with a 52 pound, 6-year old dummy and installed with a LATCH belt only, no top tether. Not using the top tether could result in an increased risk of head impact in the event of a crash and also contradicts the ProSPORT instruction manual that came with your child restraint.

In this repair kit, you will find a label, instructions on how to affix the label, and a new instruction manual to repair your child restraint. The label and instruction manual advise you not only to ALWAYS use the top tether when using the ProSPORT with a 5-point harness, but also to discontinue using the lower anchors/LATCH strap when your child reaches 40 pounds. The combined weight of your child and the ProSPORT should not exceed 65 pounds when using lower anchors, as newly required by NHTSA in the FMVSS 213 standard for seats manufactured after February 27th, 2014. Discontinuing the use of LATCH when your child reaches 40 pounds updates your older ProSPORT to the new 2014 FMVSS 213 standard, and eliminates the risk posed by installation with LATCH belt only, no tether

If you have any questions regarding the recall or this repair kit, please email info-usa@recaro-cs.com or call our customer service team at 1-888-9RECARO.

If you would like to submit a complaint to the Administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you can reach them by mail at 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590, by phone at1-888-327-4236, or via the web at http://www.safercar.gov.

Sincerely,
RECARO Child Safety, LLC

Rear-Facing As Long As Possible: What Does It Mean? Part II

A continuation from Part I.

So what does “Rear-Facing As Long As Possible” mean for most parents today?

The answer is going to vary from one parent to the next but it’s important to ask yourself that question! What does rear-facing for as long as possible mean to YOU?

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Here at CarseatBlog, we’re parents too and we all have older kids so we’ve been around this RF/FF block a few times. These are a few basic DOs and DON’Ts to help guide you:

1. DO transition to a rear-facing convertible seat once the infant seat is outgrown.

Rear-facing-only seats (aka infant seats or “buckets”) tend to be outgrown by 6-18 months depending on the model you have and the weight/size of your baby. If you start off with a rear-facing-only seat – don’t move your child into a forward-facing seat once the infant seat is outgrown. The next step is a convertible seat installed in the rear-facing position. Different convertible seats have different features and different weight and height limits. Make sure you educate yourself so you don’t wind up with buyers remorse down the road. Our list of Recommended Carseats is a great place to start researching.  

SR35 in 2008 Honda Civic

Time to move to a rear-facing convertible!

2. DO set goals for rear-facing. 

At a minimum, aim to keep your child rear-facing until at least their second birthday. Rear-facing is much safer for children 12-23 months and CarseatBlog fully endorses the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy on extended rear-facing. In some cases, thinking about rear-facing until age 3, 4 or 5 may be too much for a parent with a younger child to commit to – especially if extended rear-facing (ERF) is a foreign concept. Setting an attainable goal, like RF until 24 months, is a great place to start. Once your toddler reaches 24 months you can re-evaluate the situation and adjust your goals if you want to do that.  Evenflo Triumph ProComfort - RF Toddler

3. DO educate yourself on “Best Practice” and the protective benefits of rear-facing in a crash.

“Best Practice” is the gold standard of protection (while following the manufacturer instructions). It’s the safest way to transport a child based on their age, weight, height and developmental levels. Ideally, kids should remain rear-facing until they reach either the maximum weight limit or the maximum height limit of their convertible seat (whichever happens first). Many of the convertible carseats on the market today will accommodate kids rear-facing beyond 24 months but there are always exceptions for the biggest toddlers and/or smaller carseats with lower weight and/or height limits. Be aware that there is a good chance that whatever convertible seat you purchase will actually allow forward-facing after 1 year old as long as the FF weight minimum (usually 20 or 22 lbs.) is met but forward-facing before age 2 is NOT recommended if you can avoid it. See Why Rear-Facing is Better: Your RF Link Guide

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

4. DON’T pick a carseat based solely on rear-facing weight and height limits. Do your research!

The BEST carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (installs tightly), fits your child (is appropriate for their age/weight/height), and that you can use correctly on every single ride. And of course it needs to fit your wallet too. The best carseat is not necessarily the most expensive carseat you can (or can’t) afford. And it’s not necessarily the carseat with the highest weight and/or height limits on the market. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your online friend, and that’s important. For example, a carseat that doesn’t install tightly in your vehicle or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that can accommodate your child rear-facing until age 5 but doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for you either.

 

So what does “Rear-Facing As Long As Possible” mean for advocates and certified child passenger safety technicians?

In the technician certification course, we learn that rear-facing carseats protect the vulnerable head, neck and spine in a frontal crash by distributing the forces of the crash across the entire head and body. “It is the shell of the rear-facing carseat that absorbs the forces of the crash.” We factually present this information to parents the way it was presented to us. By doing so, it informs and empowers the parent to make educated decisions for their children. The more accurate information they have about the research and available products, the better able they are to make an educated choice. Some carseats, like the Graco Size4Me 65, offer exceptional rear-facing height limits at around $150. The Chicco NextFit has a great balance of rear-facing height and weight limits and works well in small spaces, too. We recently posted a list of a few other super extended rear-facing models that have exceptional weight or height limits.

Weight and height limits are not the only important boundaries for techs. For example, to suggest that it is bad parenting or even dangerous to turn a child forward-facing when allowed by the owner’s manual usually crosses one such line. We also shouldn’t be telling parents to buy ONLY carseats with exceptionally high rear-facing limits. Many can’t afford some of these options, so we need to be sensitive to a parent’s preferences, intentions and budget. For example, telling them they have to buy an expensive new rear-facing carseat for a child that is already 2 or 3 years of age may not be appropriate, especially if it is out of their budget or difficult for them to install or use correctly.

Technicians and advocates do need to be aware of best practice to encourage parents to keep their kids as safe as possible. Equally important is to synthesize all the information and then convey it to caregivers in a manner that is both welcomed and understandable. It’s not only WHAT you teach a parent, but HOW you teach them that is critical to having them keep their child as safe as possible. Promoting Extended Rear-Facing is very admirable, but crossing the line to overzealous or antagonistic messages will only cause parents to dismiss our advice altogether, and that is contrary to all the advocacy work we have done in the last 10+ years!

Ten Years Ago: Rear-Facing at 3.5 years old in a Britax Wizard

Finally, we also recognize that smaller convertible carseats may still be a very good choice for many kids. A prime example? The Cosco Scenera. The $39 price tag at Walmart makes it accessible to millions of families and it has been a safe and highly regarded carseat for over a decade. There’s also the Britax Roundabout G4 at $144 that tends to be easier to install and use than average and fits well in smaller vehicles, too. The Evenflo SureRide is another budget-friendly model for around $99 that offers good rear-facing height and weight limits. All three were recently rated as “Best Buys” by a leading consumer magazine.

In addition to our Recommended Rear-Facing Carseats, be sure to see our Rear-Facing Link Guide and our commentary on Rear-Facing Until 2 Years Old.

Additionally, our Rear-Facing Convertible Space Comparison blog and our list of Rear-Facing Convertible Measurements, Height & Weight Limits can be very helpful resources if you are in the market for a new convertible.