Safety Archive

Seatcheck Saturday


Don’t forget to spread the word to your friends and relatives and share with your Facebook and social media!  Hundreds of free carseat inspection events are being held tomorrow, Saturday, September 22nd.


You can find events sponsored by Safe Kids USA at their website.  Many other events are sponsored by state departments of transportation and other agencies.  You should be able to find an event near you by contacting your local police department, fire department, hospital, county health department, Safe Kids coalition, your state CPS coordinator (see link below) or state department of transportation!  You may also try to contact a local fitting station and they may have information on events this weekend as well.  These links below may help to locate a free event in your area:

Child Passenger Safety Contacts by State

Safe Kids USA Local Contacts

Seatcheck.Org Fitting Station Locator

Get Fired Up


Picture this: In an attempt to shift the blame in deaths caused by house fires, Big Tobacco enlists firefighters and shoddy science to sway the public and politicians to help create fire-retardancy standards. Then the chemical industry sets up and funds a trade group that pays “concerned professionals” and “ordinary people” to champion its efforts under the guise of a “citizens organization.” One of the people it pays includes a doctor, the head of the American Burn Association, who testifies in front of state legislatures about babies killed due to a lack of fire retardants…only those babies don’t exist. To top it off, the flame retardants don’t work as promised anyway, and the government is unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

That’s not the stuff of a paranoid conspiracy theory or a John Grisham novel. It’s from an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune that examines the origin and future of flame-retardancy standards in America.

I’ll briefly summarize the report here, but read it yourself for the full details. It’s an engrossing—and largely appalling—read.

Several decades ago, the tobacco industry was facing a public relations nightmare—not due to cancer deaths, but due to people dying in house fires caused by cigarettes. Rather than taking the heat or creating safer cigarettes, the industry decided to shift the blame to the furnishings that were catching on fire.

Obviously, the tobacco companies wouldn’t have much credibility spreading the idea that it was the furniture’s fault, so the industry decided to woo firefighters and fire safety organizations to their cause through grants and perks. A former tobacco industry executive came up with the idea of creating a firefighting organization to help their efforts. Thus, the National Association of State Fire Marshals was born.

It’s not quite clear to what extent the fire marshals realized they were pawns in a game to get people to support adding fire-resistant chemicals to furniture. Some of them thought the head of their association was a volunteer, not aware that he was being paid by tobacco companies. Regardless, the association worked to promote fire-retardant furniture (and maybe even genuinely believed in the cause) even as other firefighters expressed concerns about effectiveness and the more-toxic smoke produced when these products burn.

Oh, and that tobacco executive? He later went on to serve as a lobbyist for the chemical industry.

But hey, at least we’re protected, right?

Maybe not. Government studies have found no meaningful difference between household items treated with chemicals and those without. In addition, both produced a similar amount of smoke, which (as opposed to being engulfed in flames) is what usually causes deaths in fires.

8 isn’t Enough


A few days ago, my son Elias reached an important milestone: He turned 8.

In half of the states in America, kids turning 8 celebrate finally “freeing” themselves of the “constraint” of a booster seat. Yet as safety advocates and an increasing number of parents (and kids!) know, age has little to do with being able to ride safely in an adult seatbelt.

My own son has had vehicle safety driven into his head since the time he was born, and he does take it pretty seriously. Lately, though, even he has been longing to ditch his booster. I told him that on his birthday, we would check the fit in the regular seatbelt, just to see.

He’s familiar with the 5-step test kids need to pass before they can safely move into an adult seatbelt alone:

  • Child sits all the way back in the seat
  • Child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat
  • The lap belt sits low on the hips, touching the thighs (not on the tummy)
  • The shoulder belt crosses the middle of the shoulder (not falling off, and not rubbing the neck)
  • Child can sit that way for the entire ride

In my state, it’s actually part of the law that the seatbelt needs to fit properly before graduating from a booster seat, although most people (including lots of police officers) don’t realize that.

Elias is a tall kid: 54″ (90th percentile for 8-year-olds), so I worried a bit that he actually would fit well. But a promise is a promise, so here he is sitting in his usual position in the third row of our 2010 Honda Odyssey.

The lap belt is high, and the shoulder belt is on his neck. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but his knees aren’t anywhere near the edge of the seat.

I’ll admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw how horrible the fit was without the booster seat. Then I cringed, thinking of how many kids ride like this anyway.

Please make sure that your children fit properly in a seatbelt regardless of age, weight, or height, and remember that the fit might vary based on the vehicle and seating position. Needless to say, Elias is back in his booster and will remain there for quite some time.



YIREN-Trouble: A Review of an Illegal Chinese Car Seat


What would you say if I told you there’s a car seat good from age 6 months to 8 years, weighs less than two pounds, and can easily fit into any backpack? Oh, and it costs a mere $31. Does that sound too good to be true?

Well, yes. Yes, it does. And when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Now and then someone will post on the forums about questionable foreign seats (usually sold on ebay) that don’t meet US safety standards… or any standards for that matter. The typical (and correct) response is to say that they’re dangerous and illegal and to stay away.

Although I’d never use it, I’ve always been tempted to purchase one of these seats, just because. A few years ago, an American company called Grandma Knows was marketing a horribly unsafe-looking sling-like seat that I tried to buy, but by the time I called, armed federal officials had broken into their warehouse in the dark of night and had seized all their merchandise. Or at least that’s what I envision having happened. In reality Grandma Knows probably received nothing more than a harshly worded letter from NHTSA. In any case, I didn’t get one of the seats.

So the other day, when a Chinese seat that clearly doesn’t meet federal safety standards became available on Amazon—a mainstream US retailer—I knew I had to act fast. At just $30.99, how could I pass up such a bargain? Plus my Amazon Prime membership made shipping fast and free. With just one click, my illegal foreign seat was on its way!