Safety Archive

Turning My Kids into Safety Advocates

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I’m a mother of four (8, 8, 4, and 2) and a CPST-Instructor. My twins were 4 years old when I became a technician, although as an engineer, I’d been an advocate since before they were born. One day I was watching crash test videos as part of a training. One of my boys saw and asked what I was watching. For a moment I thought maybe this was too much for him to understand but I decided to show both of them and use it as an opportunity to explain why I’m so passionate about what I do. That was the start of something!

I’m proud to say my twin boys have become advocates for themselves and those around them. My favorite example is when my youngest went through his “arched back car seat refusal” phase, like all toddlers do, at about 13 months. One morning, after a particularly long struggle to get him into his car seat, I jokingly said, “well, I guess it’s time to turn him around!” One of my twins said, “NO MOM! That’s not safe!” Of course I told him I was only kidding and his response was, “But Mom, that’s not even funny to joke about!” My heart burst! He was watching out for his little brother and knew what was safest for him. What more can a mother ask for! From telling the parents of their younger sister’s friend’s that “she should still be rear facing” to telling a stranger at the ice cream shop that placing her infant’s car seat on top of the table isn’t safe, they’re making me proud (albeit slightly embarrassed at times, but I’ll take that knowing they’re simply watching out for someone’s safety).

Let me first explain that I don’t have the kind of kids that just comply with rules “because I said so.” They’re not the sit still and stay quiet kind of kids. But when it comes to rules, especially regarding safety, I believe in teaching kids WHY. Sure, at the end of the day they have to follow them because I say they do, but the chances that they will choose to comply without putting up a fight go up dramatically if they understand why the rules are in place. I show them the reason a booster seat is so important for them. We talk about the possible injuries from an incorrectly fitted seat belt. They hear me ask them questions like, “Do you prefer to keep your body in one piece?”, or “Would you like the seat belt to slice through your belly?” 

As we enter this age, where here in Colorado they are no longer required by law to use a booster seat as of their 8th birthday, it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens among their peer group. We’ve discussed how some bigger kids might choose unkind words regarding their booster use and how to respond to that. They’re now starting to notice and question when they see their friends riding without a booster seat. They are genuinely concerned for their safety and want their friends to be safe! So far I couldn’t be more proud of my boys for knowing, practicing, and even teaching best practice.

Data shows we’re doing a great job protecting our young children. Restraint usage is up, and injuries rates are down among most young children. Where we still have our work cutout for us is in the older children…8-12 years of age. For these children most state laws no longer require a booster seat and most parents believe that following the law protects their child so they must be safe without one if it’s legal. 

Just a quick refresher, children should be in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt properly fits. It’s not about age, height or weight. It’s simply “when the seat belt fits correctly.” Here’s how we check.

  1. Does the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat?
  2. Are the knees bent comfortably at the edge of the seat?
  3. Does the seatbelt cross the shoulder properly? (It should be centered over the collar bone)
  4. Is the lap portion of the belt low – touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated this way for the entire ride, every ride? (Awake and asleep)

Bonus Step – feet planted firmly on the floor

The results of this test will vary from one vehicle to another, from one seating position to another, etc. So a child might need a booster seat in one vehicle and not the other. 

I work at a local hospital doing pre-discharge appointments for families with new babies. Obviously I address the safety of all passengers in the vehicle so the subject of boosters for big kids comes up. It’s not uncommon that I encounter families with children who either aren’t even legally old enough to ride without a booster or children who, regardless of their age, still need a booster seat based on their size. I’m often met by parents who are hesitant to place their child back in a booster seat as though it’s some form of punishment. However, I’ve yet to meet a parent who wants their child to receive any of the common seat belt injuries for an improperly fitted seat belt. So how do we translate this to proper use among this age group?

I believe compliance will come in teaching people, parents and children alike, the “why”. Children (and their parents) need to understand that this isn’t some form of punishment or rule enforcement. It’s about preventing children from suffering horrible internal injuries from an improperly fitting seat belt. Together we can change the “stigma” around booster seat usage. Let’s make using booster seats cool. Let’s stop talking about booster seat use as an inconvenience and just make it the norm. There are so many wonderful options now for portable boosters like the BubbleBum, the Safety 1st Incognito, the Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong and Turbo GO just to name a few. Keeping an extra booster in your car for your kid’s friends is easy, and affordable. 

I’ve seen this “pact” asking parents to wait to give their kids cell phones until 8th grade. Let’s make a pact to keep our big kids safe in the car…by requiring boosters for all children who need them regardless of age, height or weight…by not taking short cuts because “we’re only driving a short distance” or “it’s just this one ride.” Together we can do this. We can make our children advocates for themselves and their peers. 

Updated Consumer Reports Convertible Car Seat Ratings

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Back in late 2015, Consumer Reports released it’s first round of Convertible Car Seat Ratings based on it’s newer crash testing protocol.  We published an article about their testing and ratings at the time: https://carseatblog.com/36420/

Britax Boulevard ClickTight

Since then, they have added and updated a few models in their ratings.  The latest Britax ClickTight convertible models, Boulevard, Advocate and Marathon, now top their list in overall score and receive a “BEST” crash protection rating.  Some models like the Nuna Rava and Graco Extend2Fit were not tested in the original report.  Both have since been tested and receive “BETTER” crash protection ratings.  Also, updated versions of the Britax “G4.1” models have improved their crash protection ratings from “BASIC” to “BETTER”, they are now called the Britax Emblem and Allegiance.

For subscribers, the updated ratings can be found here: https://www.consumerreports.org/products/convertible-car-seat/ratings-overview/

We also discuss their latest round of testing for combination harness/booster car seats here: https://carseatblog.com/47321/

The Safest Combination Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings from Consumer Reports

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Topping the Combo Seat Ratings from Consumer Reports are Graco Nautilus SnugLock, Evenflo Maestro Sport, Chicco MyFit LE and Cosco Highback Booster

Five years ago, Consumer Reports implemented a new, more rigorous crash test for carseats and started releasing their ratings to subscribers. CR’s goal in creating the new test wasn’t to recreate the wheel. We know every carseat on the market here in the U.S. must be able to pass a basic frontal crash test (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213), therefore we consider all carseats on the market to be “safe” because they can all pass this baseline test. However, we also know that all carseats are NOT created equal and it would be naive to assume that they all provide exactly the same levels of protection.

Consumer Reports set out to find which seats provide additional margins of safety, above and beyond FMVSS 213, and so they developed their crash test to be more rigorous than the federal standards. Their crash test ratings scale will indicate a “BASIC,” “BETTER,” or “BEST” rating to indicate how well the child restraint performed as compared with the rest of the seats in that “peer group” category. One main focus of this new crash test is head protection, since head injuries are very common in crashes, even among properly restrained children.

Source: Consumer Reports Video

The seats tested in this round are considered “combination” seats (a.k.a, harness booster, harness-2-booster or toddler/booster seats). Combination seats are forward-facing only seats that have a 5-point harness but can also be used as a booster once your child outgrows the harness. Combination seats are “Stage 3” seats, most appropriate for preschool and school-age children who have outgrown their rear-facing convertible seats.

 

We were already aware that there were issues with certain combination seats that they tested in this round. The Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster, Britax Pioneer Harness-2-Booster, Cosco Finale DX, and Harmony Defender 360 all experienced some sort of structural damage during this very challenging crash test. Please see our previous article on the subject for more detailed information on what went wrong during testing of these seats. Now that we have the full ratings, we know that the Graco Atlas was also downgraded to a BASIC Rating after experiencing some structural damage during this test.

All of Consumer Reports’ crash testing is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. The test utilizes a contemporary vehicle seat (2010 Ford Flex 2nd row seat) with a floor below it, unlike the government test which has a 70’s era back seat bench with no floor. There’s a “blocker plate” (pictured right) installed in front of the test seat to simulate the front seat in a vehicle. The blocker plate is intended to recreate the interaction that happens in real life crashes when the child (or a rear-facing carseat) interacts with the back of the front seat. In addition, the speed of this test is set at 35 mph (instead of 30 mph which is standard in FMVSS testing). Those who follow vehicle ratings will recognize the 35 mph speed as the same speed used to crash new vehicles in the NCAP program. CR’s new crash test applies 36% more energy to carseats than their old test protocol and a more severe test results in a greater distinction among carseat performance.

In this round, Consumer Reports crash tested 23 combination seat models with various dummy sizes, using LATCH or a 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt as required depending on the weight of the dummy being used. Several combination models that received a “BEST” rating for crash protection are also some of our favorite budget-friendly seats, the Evenflo Maestro Sport and Evenflo Evolve/Transitions/SafeMax.

 

In addition to the Crash Protection Rating, Consumer Reports gives each model an overall numeric score. This score is based on the Crash Protection Rating plus other factors, such as ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle in various modes.

The new Graco Nautilus SnugLock LX was the top overall performer in terms of their overall score. Here at CarseatBlog, we agree with this assessment. The new Nautilus SnugLock LX is an awesome combination seat with excellent features and it deserves its place at the top of the ratings even though it received a BETTER crash protection score (not a BEST rating as we would have preferred to see). Still, a BETTER rating for crash protection in this very demanding test is perfectly acceptable in our opinion.  The SnugLock LX has also been one of CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats and an Editors’ Pick.

On a separate note, we feel the need to caution our readers that the combination seat with the second-highest overall rating is a seat that we would never recommend under normal circumstances. Although we’re happy to see any seat perform well, the Cosco Highback Booster Car Seat is not a bargain for most families despite the low price tag. The Cosco Highback Booster seat is only rated up to 40 pounds with the 5-point harness and most toddlers outgrow it even before they reach that weight because the top harness slot height is so low. If you need to replace it after a year because your preschooler outgrew it, then it wasn’t really a bargain – know what I mean? If you’re on a limited budget and looking at combination seats for kids who are at least 2 years old, you’d be much better served by the similarly rated Evenflo Maestro Sport which is a lot taller and rated to 50 lbs. with the harness.

Subscribers to Consumer Reports can see the complete ratings for all car seats HERE.

Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Different Kind of Child Safety Awareness

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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and although there are many injury awareness causes that are near and dear to my heart, none are quite as personal as brain injury awareness. I am hoping I can use our story, though not one about car seats, to help keep other kids safe and to keep families from going through what we went through.

When my oldest son Elijah was 10 months old, my husband had a conference out of town and Elijah and I tagged along to get out of our house for a bit. Elijah was crawling at that point, but not yet walking and while our hotel room was generally cleanish, whenever he crawled on the ground he came back to us with dirty hands and feet. I was a first-time parent and perhaps a bit above overly-anxious, and so to keep him from getting dirty or sick, a lot of our time was spent on the bed.

On the last day of the trip, Elijah and I had a few hours to kill before my husband returned from his last meeting. I don’t remember how it started, but we were playing a sort of game where Eli would throw his pacifier off the bed and then I’d grab it and give it back to him. I was never away from his side even for a moment and while in hindsight this wasn’t a great idea, in the moment, it really didn’t ping my danger radar.

And then just like all the times before, he threw his pacifier over the edge of the bed, but as I bent down to get it, he followed and crawled head first off the bed. The bed was about 3 feet tall and the flooring was exceptionally hard (we were on the ground floor). When I picked him up, I knew something was wrong. He couldn’t or wouldn’t hold his head up. He was barely conscious and obviously not okay.

We went by ambulance to the hospital where he got neck x-rays, which were blessedly clear. I’ll spare some of the details but we were released from that hospital and told that he was fine. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t fine.

As the day progressed, Elijah just was not himself and then began vomiting profusely. He had thrown up at the earlier emergency room, but he was one of those babies who threw up a lot and the doctor dismissed it as being upset. The second hospital we went to pulled us back immediately, did a stat CT scan and it showed a bleed around my baby’s brain. A traumatic brain injury.

We spent the next several days in the hospital, monitoring Elijah, managing his pain and nausea and watching for seizures (of which he had two, but thankfully he never had another). It was scary and stressful beyond words.

For months we watched and waited to see what the long term ramifications might be. His neurosurgeon said there was no way to know if he might have deficits as he grew, which seemed to prolong the nightmare indefinitely.

It will be 6 years later this month since this happened and Elijah is happy and healthy and thriving. He has had some fine motor deficits that may or may not be related to his injury, but you would never in a million years know that he once had a ring of blood around half his brain. We got lucky and we know it. (We also got great medical care at the second hospital and we are forever grateful for it.)

So this March, I’d like to take a second to implore you not to put babies on high surfaces. I can’t tell you how many threads I’ve read on parenting websites about babies falling off beds and how “it happens to everyone” and, well, it just doesn’t have to. Babies do not belong on elevated surfaces. Elijah was inches away from me when he fell and if we’d been on the floor instead of on the bed, it never would’ve happened.

Babies belong on the floor, for their development, and for their safety. Please don’t leave them on beds or changing tables or any elevated surfaces. There’s no convenience that is worth the risk to your child.