Safety Archive

The Safety Bubble of the Taxi / Uber Back Seat

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Yellow_Cabs_in_New_YorkAdmit it: at some point while planning a vacation, you seriously considered not bringing your child’s carseat because it was going to be too cumbersome. We’ve all been there, whether it’s been a dream vacation to an exotic island where the main mode of transportation is paddle board or a Disney park adventure where all you need are a good pair of shoes and a stroller. Or perhaps you live in a city where you don’t need to own a car and occasionally take a taxi or ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft? Does the thought of hauling a carseat through crowded city streets to an appointment or to a playdate make you cringe? Well, it shouldn’t.

Kids are a pain. Having kids means hauling around a lot of gear, at least initially. It does get easier the older they get—and then they can haul their own stuff, little work beasts. Let’s look at why it’s so important to always use restraints for children and why physics doesn’t magically change when you ride in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle, or go on vacation.

One basic equation that we use as child passenger safety technicians to help caregivers understand force is force = child’s weight x speed of the vehicle. This puts us in the ballpark since the amount of force is actually a much more complicated equation measuring acceleration and returning the answer in Newtons. It’s easier for our purposes to say Little Joshie exerts 1050 lbs. of force (he weighs 35 lbs. in a 30 mph crash). Remember that and let’s go on vacation (this also applies to those of you living in the city who take taxis or ride-sharing services).

Joshie just turned 4 and weighs 35 lbs. “That’s big enough, right? I can hold him on my lap.” We tell ourselves as we try to justify not taking his regular convertible carseat with us. It weighs close to 30 lbs., we guess, and he’d cry if he sat in it for the long flight. Besides, we’d only use it for the taxi ride to the hotel and maybe on another taxi ride if we decided to leave the hotel to sight-see.turbo safety surround

Fact:
Joshie is too small to fit in an adult seat belt. In a crash, he would submarine under the lap portion of the seat belt and be injured. Booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% for kids aged 4-8.

Fact:
If Joshie or his parents ride without wearing seat belts at all, they are 4 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle in a crash.

Fact:
Unbelted passengers in a vehicle increase the likelihood of injury or death to other occupants in the vehicle by 40%. A passenger who is not wearing a seat belt sitting directly behind the driver increases the risk of fatality for the driver by 137%. Unbelted passengers are like bullets in a crash: they have no control over their bodies and they are traveling with tremendous force. Remember our equation above? If Joshie is 35 lbs. and in a 30 mph crash and isn’t restrained, he’s traveling with 1050 lbs. of force. Imagine the force an adult carries.

Fact:
You cannot hold a child in your arms to restrain him in a vehicle. In a crash, Joshie carries 1050 lbs. of force. Can your arms withstand that amount of force? Even a 7 lb. newborn exerts 210 lbs. of force in a 30 mph crash. Good luck with that. Are you willing to risk your child’s life on your ego?

Fact:
You *must* buckle up in the back seat in 28 states and the District of Columbia. To see a list of which states require the use of seat belts in the back seat, click here. There may be an exemption for seat belt use while in a taxi, but after reading what you’ve read here and thinking about it, does it make sense to not buckle up?

What Should You Do?

Best Practice:
Obviously best practice would be to take your regular carseat, or a carseat you bought specifically for travel or as a secondary carseat. You and your child are familiar with this carseat and you’ll be able to install it quickly (hopefully!) and use it easily.

Decent Practice:
Take a booster seat for your child age 3+. Hold on now, deep breath. I know some of you are nearly having a heart attack at the suggestion of a booster for a 3 year old. It’s better than nothing and if a parent is sitting right next to the child for supervision, it works. This must be a booster that doesn’t have an age requirement on it and check the weight requirements.

Bare Basics:
Use a seat belt. Any seat belt is better than being unrestrained or being held in arms.

You DO have options!

Check out the Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane article. If you have an infant, you can easily use whatever infant seat you have if it can be used baseless. Practice that baseless install and you’re golden! For infants and toddlers, the Scenera NEXT is a very lightweight convertible that’s easy to install. For older kids, the RideSafer 2 Travel Vest and the IMMI GO. The BubbleBum Booster is a portable inflatable booster that fits inside a backpack.

uberUber also has UberFAMILY in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. UberFAMILY provides one IMMI GO per vehicle for an additional $10 (UberFAMILY in Philadelphia also provides 2 BubbleBums along with the IMMI GO per vehicle). The IMMI GO is tested for kids 31-52” tall and who weigh between 22-48 lbs. (Uber uses a lower weight limit). It’s a forward-facing only carseat.

I know you love your child and would never do anything to intentionally hurt him. Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of a trip—whether across town or around the world—and we can’t see the big picture. If you can watch the above video and not take something away from it regarding unrestrained passengers, I’m not sure I can get through to you. Unfortunately, people are injured and killed every day riding in taxis and ride-sharing vehicles; we aren’t surrounded by a magical safety bubble when we leave our home base. All we can do is prepare and make sure we’ve done our best for our children.

Magnet Ingestions – when attractions go bad

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The term “opposites attract” is usually reserved  for dating websites or corny Hallmark cards, but right now I’m going to apply it to something you probably don’t think about on a regular basis:

Magnets.

More specifically, neodymium magnets, or rare earth magnets.

buckyball-magnets

Sometimes these are sold in toys (think Magnatiles, etc) but were more often sold as desk toys or stress relievers for adults. While the magnets within children’s blocks are safely encased and tightly regulated by the CPSC, the magnets marketed for adults only are easily ingested by children. They are small, pretty, and apparently very tasty looking. When a child (or pet!) ingests 2 or more, they attract each other within the digestive tract. This can result in an obstruction, a perforated bowel, and necrosis of the tissue which can lead to sepsis and death. Picture two magnets being in opposite ends of the intestine. They come together with the intestine pinched in between. Either the intestine tears (a perforation) and the contents seep into the abdominal cavity, or the pinched tissue is deprived of blood flow and becomes necrotic (dies). Either can result in sepsis, which is an infection within the blood stream that can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

The scary thing about these magnets is if your child doesn’t tell you they ate them, you won’t know until they start showing symptoms. The initial symptoms are abdominal pain and vomiting and basically mimic a common stomach virus. Parents and pediatricians just give symptom support and assume it will subside in a few days. When the symptoms instead intensify , warranting an x-ray, the damage is already done.

Most of the desk toys marketed for adults have since been recalled and removed from the market, such as BuckyBalls. However millions still lurk in desk drawers and offices. Make sure to remove them immediately and place them out of reach (or better yet, get rid of them!) if you do have them in your house. Magnetic toys are becoming more prevalent on store shelves with the trendy rising of STEM education aspects. Tegu blocks, Magna-Tiles, Magformers, etc are all toys that have magnets safely encased in plastic or wood. Remember to check the integrity of these toys regularly, and supervise when your children are playing with them. Wood is easily chewed by family pets, so keep them out of reach and immediately search the area for magnets if a block is damaged. These toys are amazingly fun, just make sure to play safely!

If you think your child may have ingested a magnet, alert your pediatrician immediately or go to the ER. Also note that on an x-ray, multiple magnets can appear as only one when they’ve attached to each other. The damage caused can be irreversible and as evidenced by several recent stories I’ve read on parenting message boards- life changing.

F1.large

Kids are crazy and seem to be able to hurt themselves with almost anything. This is truth, and with all these blog posts about the things that can pick off your kid, it seems overwhelming and that you may as well put your kid in a bubble. I get this, my own kids are 5 and 2. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m currently watching them beat each other with sticks through the kitchen window. Someone may lose an eye. But so far, no one has recalled sticks so I’m gonna let it slide. However, knowledge is power. Even as a nurse myself, I never would have thought of magnets as anything other than a choking hazard. Buckyballs are small enough to pass, so that’s what I would be waiting for. Arming yourself with knowledge and being proactive is the best thing you can do. I will be forever grateful that I wasn’t one of the parents that was given this knowledge by a doctor while my child was critically ill. I wish every parent could be spared that.

Carseat Recalls – the good, the bad and the ridiculous

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Recall-stampYour carseat is recalled. Those words strike fear into the hearts and minds of safety-conscious parents everywhere. After all, no one wants to hear that there is a potential problem with their carseat – a product that they’ve entrusted to protect their child’s life under the worst possible circumstances. For child restraint manufacturers, recalls are more than just fixing compliance or safety issues – they tend to be costly and chock full of bad publicity. In short, recalls are bad for business. However, voluntary recalls are also a part of the business and almost every manufacturer has to face a recall issue sooner or later. It’s important to understand that not all recalls are for serious safety-related problems although some clearly are.

A carseat could be recalled for having a small hole in the shell (for attaching the cup holder) if enough kids get a finger stuck in that hole. A seat could also be recalled for having an incorrect phone number for NHTSA listed on the label. Or for having a mix-up with the English/Spanish sticker labels. Labeling errors are actually pretty common but rarely are they a safety concern.

Most consumers have no idea how many nit-picky little criteria are in FMVSS 213 that must be complied with. One perfect example, if the carseat is one that is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft then the label is required to state that. But it’s also required to state that in red lettering. If someone, somewhere, screws up and that wording winds up printed on the label in black or gray, or any color other than red, then… you guessed it – the seat will be recalled for failing to comply with federal standards.

Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label

Meanwhile, every store around the country that carried that particular carseat will probably have that “WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE” recall notice poster with a picture of the culprit hanging in the aisle or posted on a bulletin board – alerting consumers to the failure of that product to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. I bet the money spent on that recall campaign could buy a whole lot of red ink. And probably a few years worth of gas and groceries too.

It’s ridiculous that all recalls get lumped together and there is no differentiating between a misdemeanor and a felony. How many parents get totally freaked out because of some minor issue that has nothing to do with the safety of their child restraint? On the flip side, there are plenty of legitimately scary recalls that can affect the product’s ability to protect children in crashes. Almost every manufacturer has to deal with something that falls into this category sooner or later. No product or production process, no matter how good, is guaranteed to be flawless 100% of the time.

What REALLY matters in these situations is how the manufacturer responds once it becomes apparent that there is a problem (or at least the potential for a problem). Do they quickly identify a solution and issue a voluntary recall right away – before any children are seriously injured? Or do they drag their feet, arguing back and forth with NHTSA for years until they are forced to issue a recall?

I have to say that there have been a lot of properly handled recalls recently that reaffirm my faith in some carseat manufacturers. Timely and appropriate responses combined with good customer service really go a long way to calm fears. Obviously, the more severe the problem or defect, the more it will take to regain the trust of consumers but good customer service is always the best place to start whenever there’s a problem. Well, that and an acceptable solution to whatever the problem is. I’ve seen some really lame “solutions” to recall issues over the years but that’s a topic for a whole different blog.

So, what can consumers do to protect their children from faulty products? Spending a lot of money on a CR doesn’t make it less likely to be recalled. Really, your best protection is to be an educated consumer. Whenever possible, buy products from manufacturers who have a good reputation for recalling seats quickly when problems arise and for handling problems with excellent customer service. It is also critical that you register your child restraint with the manufacturer so that you will be notified in the case of a recall.  If you move – don’t forget to call them and update your contact info!

If you’d like to check your carseat or booster for recalls – there are several resources available. Keep in mind that recalls may occur years after the product has been purchased. Here are links to the 2 most popular recall lists:

NHTSA Recall List:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

University of North Carolina HSRC Recall List: http://www.buckleupnc.org/car-seat-recall-list/

You can also sign up for email alerts whenever a new recall is announced:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm

2016 Graco Extend2Fit Recall

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Graco Extend2Fit - stockThe Graco Extend2Fit just hit the shelves, but there’s already a recall on some seats. Not to worry, though: The recall is very minor and does not affect the safety of the seat.

The issue is that seats sold in the U.S. need to have labels in both English and Spanish. On some Extend2Fits, the wording on some of the recline labels (identifying positions 1-6) got mixed up, so there’s English on the Spanish side or vice-versa.

If you have an Extend2Fit, check to see if the labels are entirely in English on one side of the seat and entirely in Spanish on the other. If the languages are mixed together, you can call Graco for replacement labels. The seat is perfectly safe to use in the meantime.

Wording of the recall from the Graco website:

Potential Problem:

Over the past 60 years, safety has been and will continue to be our priority at Graco. As part of our continuous effort to provide quality and safe products, Graco has discovered that the recline label on a small portion of the Extend2Fit convertible car seats manufactured between November 27, 2015 to January 20, 2016 does not meet regulatory guidelines. While the affected products represent less than one percent of those produced, Graco is recalling the recline label on the affected car seats and providing owners with a free replacement label that can be applied directly to the car seat. The affected Extend2Fit convertible car seats are part of the Campaign fashion sold in the United States.

Injuries Reported: 0

Number of Units Affected: 15,064

Dates Produced: Manufactured between November 27, 2015 – January 20, 2016

MSRP: $199.99

Models Affected: 1954477

Solution:

To verify if a car seat is included in this recall, caregivers should check their model number and date of manufacture. In addition, caregivers should confirm whether their recline label is correct by examining all labels on the side of the car seat (including the recline label which identifies positions 1 through 6) to determine they are in the same language (i.e. all English (including the recline label) on one side of the car seat and all Spanish on the other side of the car seat). If the languages are the same, caregivers can continue to use their car seat without hesitation as instructed in the owner’s manual; the car seat does not need a new label as provided by the recall. If the recline label is incorrect because the languages on the side of the car seat do not match, then caregivers can contact the Graco consumer services team at 1-800-345-4109 (Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm ET) to order a free replacement recline label.

Click here to see if you are affected, or contact Graco toll-free at 800-345-4109 Monday – Friday from 8 am to 5 pm EST. The model number and date of manufacture can be found on the white label located on the bottom of the car seat.