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Rear-Facing Head Injuries: RF is Still Safer

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ERF - Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65A story from the Washington Post referenced  a study in the current issue of the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention that found that rear-facing children have some risk for head injuries in rear-end crashes.  When a car is rear-ended, a rear-facing car seat is likely to rotate toward the back of the car, which could throw a child’s head into the headrest or seatback. Does this spell bad news for rear-facing in general? Absolutely not.

While the study did find that children’s heads might strike the seatback/headrest in a severe rear-end crash, there are some things to keep in mind.

  • Rear-facing is still safer than forward-facing. Head, neck, spine, and leg injuries are more likely when forward-facing, so children should stay rear-facing as long as possible.
  • Severe rear-end crashes are rare. Rear-end crashes account for only around 5% of crashes with fatal injuries, according to the latest IIHS data.
  • Overall, rear-end crashes account for about 25% of all crashes, but most of these are not severe or fatal.  This study tested seats at 30 mph, which might seem slow, but keep in mind that most rear-end crashes actually happen at much lower speeds than frontal crashes, usually after some amount of braking has occurred.
  • The study tested only three seats (using three different installation methods for each one) in one vehicle model, a 2012 Toyota Camry rear seat. Although we can take away some information from this study, it is not exhaustive.
  •  Severe and fatal injuries to rear-facing children are much less likely than to forward-facing children.  According to NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge quoted by the Post, “Real-world crash data does not indicate children in rear-facing car seats are being injured by contacting the seat on rebound.

Parents are often worried about the possibility that their rear-facing children might strike the seatback in a rear-end crash or due to the rebound that occurs after the initial impact in a frontal crash. Those concerns aren’t necessarily unwarranted, but they need to be kept in perspective: In real-life scenarios, rear-facing children are far safer than forward-facing ones.

The study does raise a good argument for better rebound control on car seats. Rear-tethers (uncommon on USA seats) and anti-rebound bars can do a lot to keep seats from rotating too much toward the back of the car. Even without these features rear-facing seats are very safe, but perhaps research like this will lead manufacturers to include anti-rebound technology. (And maybe it will encourage the NHTSA to update federal standards in the USA.)  Canada implemented a limitation for rebound on rear-facing carseats in 2012.

In the meantime, keep those kiddos rear-facing. It’s still the best way to ride.  If your rear-facing carseat does not have an anti-rebound feature, then also consider removing any hard objects attached to the vehicle seat or head restraint.  These include video monitors, mirrors with hard surfaces or toys that are heavy or have sharp edges.

Throwback Thursday: Baby-Sitters Club

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IMG_4782Ah, The Baby-Sitters Club. Some of our readers may be too young to remember the series, and some may be too old, but I have a feeling a good chunk of you read these books when you were little. I bet some of you even started your own babysitting club with your friends. I bet some of you wished you could be as stylish as Claudia or as free-spirited as Dawn. Admit it.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog post about the books, and ever since then I’ve been obsessing over Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Dawn, the fictitious girls I hung out with in middle school.

I read my first Baby-Sitters Club book toward the end of fifth grade and was immediately hooked. The series was still relatively new back then, so I read all of the books that existed until that point, then stalked the bookstore waiting for new releases, begging my mom to buy them as soon as they hit the shelves.

I moved after that school year, which meant a new school in sixth grade. Because I had a lot of free time (for some reason I had two study halls) and no new friends, I read voraciously. That year my genre of choice was realistic fiction about abused children and kids with terminal diseases, but in between those depressing books, The Baby-Sitters Club was always there. 

I also went to new schools in both seventh and eighth grades, and the girls from the Baby-Sitters Club kept me company, at least on the page, while I struggled with my new environments. By that point I was kind of jealous of those girls at Stoneybrook Middle School, mainly because they didn’t keep getting uprooted.

At some point I outgrew The Baby-Sitters Club. I can’t quite say when, but judging from the release dates on Wikipedia, it must have been sometime toward the end of eighth grade. (I had no idea that new books continued to be published for another 10 years after I stopped reading.)

Anyway, because The Baby-Sitters Club had been on my mind so much, I inevitably wound up on eBay, where I purchased books 1-25 plus the first Super Special for about $30, which is way less than I paid for them back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I had planned on reading the Super Special and maybe one of the other books, then putting them away until my daughter was ready for them. But once I realized I could knock out a book in about an hour, I decided I might as well re-read all of them. So far I’ve only read books 1-6 plus the Super Special where they all go on a cruise to the Caribbean and then to Disney World…back when Disney World only had two parks and one of them was called EPCOT Center.

It’s funny to see how much has changed since I was in middle school. The biggest, of course, is the idea that so many people would hire 12-year-olds to babysit their children. I mean, yeah, they were really responsible and resourceful, but that just seems so young now. (I’m not really sure why, especially since I babysat when I was 12 and did a pretty good job, thanks largely to the tips I received from The Baby-Sitters Club books.)

That was also back in the day before cell phones, when you’d have to call the restaurant or the theater to get in touch with parents if something went wrong. That’s why Claudia got to be the vice-president of the club: She had her very own phone in her room!

It was also a time when you could buy snacks at the movie theater for a dollar. (Stacey was shocked to find that a soda and popcorn cost $1.25 in New York City—so much more than she paid in little Stoneybrook, Connecticut.)

Finally in Book 6 (Kristy’s Big Day), I encountered some Child-Passenger-Safety moments. One was mostly good: Some of Kristy’s relatives arrive, and she goes to the car to unfasten “about a million straps and buckles” to remove a 1-year-old from her car seat (probably not rear-facing, but still.) Another was not so good: Kristy’s grandma drives Kristy, Stacey, and three kids (ages 8, 9, and 10) downtown. The 9-year-old rides up front in the center, certainly in a lap-only belt, if anything at all. There’s no mention of booster seats for the others. But such was life back in 1987.

So, let’s talk about it. Did you have a babysitting notebook to keep track of jobs? Did you start stashing junk food all over your room like Claudia? Which characters did you like and dislike the most, and which were most like you? Do you still have your books? (And if so, can I have any beyond #25?)

Walk This Way

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Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.50.13 AMAs the name would imply, CarseatBlog’s main focus is on keeping kids safe in cars. But children’s safety extends beyond the interior of the vehicle. With school in full swing and with International Walk to School Day (October 7) just around the corner, this is a good time to review pedestrian safety tips.

According to statistics from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, that hospital saw more children injured by cars than in cars. Between January 2010 and December 2014, the hospital admitted 163 children for serious injuries sustained as occupants in cars. During the same time period, it saw 343 children admitted for serious injuries sustained as pedestrians (and another 62 as bicyclists).Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.17.19 AM

SafeKids recently launched a very cool interactive infographic, aptly named “How to Not Get Hit by a Car.” It’s designed to help children and teens improve their safety as pedestrians.

The main tips:

  • Put down the cell phone. Distracted walking can be as deadly as distracted driving, and 1 in 5 high schoolers crosses the street distracted.
  • Use crosswalks. More than 80% of child pedestrian deaths are from crossing somewhere other than a crosswalk.
  • Wear light-colored or reflective clothes when walking at night. Of teen pedestrian deaths, 75% occur between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Watch for careless drivers. Look left, right, left, and keep looking as you’re crossing. Don’t assume that drivers see you.
  • Walk on sidewalks. If sidewalks aren’t available, walk facing traffic, and as far over as possible.
  • Watch for cars backing out of driveways and parking spaces. Again, don’t assume the drivers see you.
  • If you’re crossing more than one lane of traffic, check each lane. Pause before stepping into another lane of traffic and make eye contact with each driver.

Some other tips:

  • Make sure children wear helmets any time they’re on a bike.
  • Teach children hand signals for bicycles, and make sure they recognize them even when they’re not the ones on the bikes: They need to know what bicyclists on the road are doing.
  • According to SafeKids, children under 10 should cross the street with an adult. Younger kids don’t have the ability to properly judge the speed and distance of approaching traffic.

 

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

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Oliver RF/FFSometimes it’s hard for Child Passenger Safety Technicians to take their own advice—-or at least it is for me.

If a dad came to me and asked if it’s okay to put his mature, normal-sized 6-year-old in a booster, I’d say sure. If a mom came to me and asked if her tall 10-year-old, who passed the 5-step-test, was really all right without a booster, I’d say it’s fine. If another mom asked about forward-facing a 4-year-old, I’d congratulate her on doing an awesome job and I’d tell her that I would do the same thing if it were my own child.

And yet when I’ve reached these same milestones with my own children, the choice hasn’t always been easy. In fact, I’ve struggled with all these scenarios in the past year. This spring, I hesitated to let my 5-stepping, nearly-5-foot-tall oldest child ride without a booster (though I did give in). A month later when my extremely-compliant 6-year-old started begging to ride in a booster, it took me weeks before I finally allowed her to use one in our secondary car.

Yet my reluctance in making those decisions comes nowhere near the internal struggle I’m facing as I decide what to do with my youngest child, Oliver, who’s about to turn 4. He still rides rear-facing in both of our vehicles and has never asked to go forward-facing. I don’t think he even realizes it’s an option.

I didn’t hesitate when it was time to turn my two older children forward-facing, but it’s different with this one.

See, not only is Oliver my baby, he’s my last baby. As my kids have all gotten older, I’ve been able to cling to “still” having him as my tiny little one: My other two outgrew the ring sling, but I still had Oliver to carry. The other two outgrew the octopus costume, but Oliver could still wear it. The other two didn’t want to read Moo, Baa, La La La anymore, but Oliver still loved it. My other two got too big to rock to sleep, but Oliver still fit in my arms.

The other two could forward-face, but Oliver still…

Well, he still fits rear-facing and will for a while, and yes, rear-facing is safer. But my resistance to turn him around isn’t about safety, it’s about me. I have absolutely no qualms about a 4-year-old forward-facing; I just have qualms about this particular 4-year-old forward-facing, because I’m afraid of letting go. The reality is that turning him around will mark the end of an era for me. Once he rides forward-facing I’ll never again have a rear-facing child. I’ll have to admit my baby is growing up, and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.