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What Is a Child Passenger Safety Technician?

CPST stickerWhat is a child passenger safety technician? And why do I constantly have to explain that mouthful to everyone I introduce myself to? Who created this crazy title? I’m extra special in that I even have the word “Instructor” after my long title, which means that I must teach people how to be this mysterious technician thingy. So what are we all technical about? Because we can get quite technical about such things as crash forces, why there are weight limits for carseats, injury and death statistics, vehicle safety features, biomechanics, and other fun things. Yes, fun things :) . Do you know what a child passenger safety technician is? Did you know before you started Googling for information about carseats for your child?

A child passenger safety technician teaches parents how to use their carseat for their child. We teach the parent how to install the carseat in their vehicle and how to install their child (giggle) in the carseat. We’ll even help with the selection of the carseat for both the child and the vehicle because each and every time it will be a *custom* choice. What works for your sister or best friend may not work for you. Cars and babies are built differently and if the carseat doesn’t fit either perfectly, it can be a deadly combination.

So going back to this awful mouthful—child passenger safety technician—it’s on a lot of stuff that I own. It’sHW business card my profession, so I have business cards and clothing with the wording. My SUV has a sticker on the back window proclaiming that I am a CPST. It’s my third car with the same sticker; I guess at one point I thought someone might ask me about it, but no one has. I think for my next car I’ll leave the back glass pristine. It’s not as if it gets me into a crime scene or anything.

And you’d think that a certification, an actual certification that requires several days in class with several tests along the way (ask those who drop out of the class if they think it’s a piece of cake), would garner some respect. But it all goes back to the fact that no one knows what a child passenger safety technician is. Maybe we should be called Carseat Techs or Carseat Educators (but never Carseat Installers). I suppose that we’re likely not going to get much respect because the majority of us in the field are women and child safety issues aren’t sexy. Well tough, because this child passenger safety technician will continue to educate on safety issues, but I may introduce myself simply as the “carseat tech you have an appointment with.” It’s easier that way.

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How to Buy Non-Toxic Furniture

Old LabelBack in 2012, we wrote about the history of flame-retardant chemicals in furniture sold in the United States. It’s a long, sordid story, but the bottom line is that dousing cushions with pounds of chemicals is not only almost completely ineffective at preventing the spread of fire, the chemicals have been linked to adverse and serious health effects, including cancer, developmental deficits, and infertility.

For decades, consumer advocates had tried to get these dangerous chemicals removed from household products, with little success. Over the years, some of the “worst” chemicals were phased out, only to be replaced by other chemicals that were at best questionable, and at worst just as bad as their predecessors. The real problem was a California law (TB117) that required upholstered furniture to meet an open-flame test. Although this wasn’t a national standard, furniture companies implemented it across the board. Strong lobbying by the tobacco and chemical industries repeatedly blocked any real change from happening.

Then the Chicago Tribune ran a series of investigative pieces on the issue, and lawmakers started listening.

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Review – Safety, Comfort & Style

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 - Devoted Black frontMaxi-Cosi is Europe’s most popular brand of premium carseats. Even though the Maxi-Cosi carseats sold here in the U.S. are not the same seats that are sold in Europe (due to different standards and regulations), American parents are embracing the brand and everything that it stands for – safety, comfort and style.

Let’s clarify that there are three different models of the Maxi-Cosi Pria convertible that are currently available. Four, if you count the less expensive Maxi-Cosi Vello 65 model which is similar but lacks some of the features found on the various Pria models.

Maxi-Cosi Pria collage

 

Differences between Pria 70 & Pria 85 models: Both models have no re-thread harness; deep head wings with Air Protect technology for enhanced side-impact protection; push-on LATCH connectors; 3 position base and integrated cup holder. Pria 70 and Pria 85 models share the same shell but have different minimum and maximum weight limits. Both seats have Air Protect cushions on the headwings but the shape of those cushions are different. Pria 85 model offers harness holders, a cover that is easier to remove and both machine washable and dryer safe.

Pictured below Pria 70 (left) & Pria 85 (right)

Pria 70 (Blue) ; Pria 85 (Pink) Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 and Pria 80 - naked

Pria 85 Specs:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs., 40″ or less, top of child’s head must be below top of the headrest
  • Forward-facing:  22-85 lbs., at least 1 year old, up to 52″ tall

Pria 85 Features:

  • No-rethread harness with 9 height positions
  • Air Protect® technology for enhanced side-impact protection
  • 3-position base
  • Premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Harness holder clips (hold harness out of the way while loading and unloading)
  • Easy to remove cover is both machine washable & dryer safe
  • Premium fabrics
  • Separate harness strap covers for kids over 65 lbs. (only required if seat is NOT tethered)
  • Integrated cup holder
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft
  • 10 year lifespan before expiration

Mythbusting: Can you install a carseat too tightly?

SK300 installed with lap/shoulder seatbelt Can a carseat be installed too tightly?

It’s a common question so we wanted to really explore the issue – look at the facts, talk to carseat engineers who know more than we do and set the record straight once and for all.

First, a little background info – when carseats are crash tested in a lab the tension on the belt webbing has to measure between 53.5 N (newtons) and 67 N.  That tension is measured by a load cell device placed on the webbing. This is done to maintain repeatability between tests. The tension range was chosen because it represents the average tightness achieved by parents in the field.

In the real world no one expects parents and caregivers to measure the tension on the seatbelt or lower LATCH belt webbing that is securing their carseat. CPS Technicians are taught that a carseat is properly installed if it moves less than 1” from side-to-side and front-to-back when you check for tightness at the beltpath.

But is it possible to install your carseat too tightly? To the point of it being a detriment instead of a benefit?

Survey says…. No! (with a few exceptions)

In most cases, there is no such thing as too tight – only too loose. If you’re just using typical human strength and maybe a few installation tricks like getting behind a rear-facing carseat or using the reclining seatback trick, you do not have to worry about getting the seatbelt or LATCH strap too tight. Carseats and seatbelts are not delicate objects that are going to be compromised by a really tight installation.

Base installation technique

We know that the tighter you can couple the carseat to the vehicle, the better. This is why rigid LATCH/ISOFIX attachments are so beneficial. On the flip side – the difference between a carseat installed rock-solid (with seatbelt or flexible LATCH attachments) and a carseat installed acceptably with just a little bit of movement at the beltpath, in a crash, is negligible. Don’t convince yourself that a rock-solid install is going to keep that seat tight during a moderate to severe crash – but it’s certainly better than starting out in a crash with a loose installation!

However, there could be cases where too tight is possible. If you’re using a mechanical tightening system that is part of the carseat (or something like a Mighty Tite device) and going overboard with it or applying brute strength to a force-multiplying system like Chicco’s SuperCinch system on the NextFit, you could actually damage the seatbelt, the retractor or the carseat. In cases where you do have a mechanical device or a force-multiplying system you really need to take it easy and carefully follow the directions in the manual.

With typical carseats, if you can use a few tricks or installation techniques and achieve a really solid installation, that’s great. But if you’re fighting with the install and the best you can achieve is just a little bit of side-to-side or front-to-back movement and it’s not more than 1″ of movement, that’s perfectly okay too. It’s not always possible to get a rock-solid install but if you can – there is certainly nothing wrong or bad about that. For the record, in my vehicle with stiff leather seats, I almost always need to put a knee in a forward-facing carseat to get an acceptable install. Occasionally I need to put a knee in the seat AND use the reclining seatback trick. These are easy things for me to do quickly and it sure beats wrestling with an install for 20 minutes.

To clarify, I don’t always need to put my knee in a forward-facing carseat – but when I do, I certainly don’t feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Ultimately, you always want to read and follow the carseat manufacturer’s recommendations. There are situations where getting the seatbelt too tight will prevent you from closing a lockoff (or a Britax ClickTight compartment) or perhaps a lockoff will pop open because there is too much tension on the belt. There are also situations where a LATCH belt with hook connectors is so tight that you can’t get enough slack in the belt to loosen it when you have to take it out. (Tip: if this happens on a vehicle seat that reclines – recline the seat back and that should introduce enough slack to allow you to loosen the LATCH belt). Obviously, in these cases you have a compelling circumstance and you may need to lighten up a little on your regular installation technique.

Bottom line: Unless there is some compelling reason not to, get the carseat as tight as you can with *reasonable* effort but don’t feel guilty if you can’t get it rock-solid. On the flip side, it’s not bad or wrong if you can get that sucker installed like it’s part of the car with reasonable effort.

Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Seat Review: Easy Install with Safety You Can See

Britax B-Safe 35 Rear-Facing Only Infant Seat Review

Britax B-Safe 35 - red centerBritax has taken its popular B-SAFE and updated it to be modern, sleek, and able to handle bigger children. The new B-Safe 35 has a new deeper shell that’s designed to keep your child safe from flying debris and give more legroom with a base that is easier to adjust and install. Britax has brought their signature SafeCell Impact Protection to the base so the smallest of riders can benefit from this technology. These safety items, plus other creature comforts, make for a feature-laden rear-facing only carseat.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 4-35 lbs., AND 32” tall or less, AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest

B-Safe 35 Overview (New features are marked in bold):

  • Complete Side Impact Protection – deep protective shell is designed to absorb crash forces
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing steel frame base – these red cells compress in a crash to absorb crash energy
  • Removable head pillow
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 11 lbs./after 11 lbs.)
  • Ergonomic handle to make carrying comfortable
  • Deep seat pan
  • Deluxe push-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in slide lockoffs for installation with seatbelt
  • Dual recline angle indicators
  • Extra-large canopy
  • Smooth bottom base
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA!

B-Safe 35 black B-Safe 35 red B-Safe 35 sandstone

B-Safe 35 Measurements