Safety Archive

How far is too far?

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I understand that we’re all passionate about safety. And at some point or another, most of us have had to deal with criticism from friends or family members who think we’ve taken this whole car safety thing too far and just gone right off the deep end. Usually, we just brush off these ignorant remarks because deep in our hearts we know that we’re right and obviously they just don’t get it. We’re aware of the fact that MVC’s are a leading cause of death to children in the U.S. and we’re all determined to protect our children to the best of our abilities. That’s our job as parents and caregivers and we all take that responsibility very seriously. I understand that, I really do – because I’m right there with ya.

But how are we to know if we’ve really gone too far? Certainly, our safety-addicted friends at the car-seat.org forum would never stage an intervention on our behalf. And our spouse would probably rather walk across hot coals than incur our wrath by suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we’re being a bit too extreme.

So, who’s gonna give it to ya straight and tell you when it’s time to chillax? Who’s going to remind you that you can’t save the world and completely eradicate all injuries to all children in MVCs – no matter how desperately you want to? Who’s gonna tell you when it’s time to step away from that vehicle in the Walmart parking lot because clearly you’re not dealing with an appreciative and open-minded victim?

I will.

However, the first step to getting help is to admit that you have a problem. Don’t think you have a problem? Get in line. And while you’re there – take our short survey:

1. Do you find yourself repeatedly trying to talk your sister-in-law into buying a Graco Extend2Fit to rear-face your tiny 7-year-old niece?

2. When you go grocery shopping do you spend 20 minutes thinking about the most appropriate way to secure those projectiles for the ride home?

3.  Have you purchased more carseats for other people’s kids than you have for your own children?

4.  Have you ever considered gluing sheets of EPS foam to the rear windows of a vehicle that doesn’t have side curtain airbags?

5.  Do you lose sleep thinking about your neighbor’s child who is 5 years old and rides in a backless booster?

6.  Do you respond “ABSOLUTELY”, when someone posts an online poll asking whether you would put a small, immature 13-year-old back into a 5-point harness?

7.  Have you ever refused to ride the monorail at WDW because you considered it too risky?

8.  Do you have anxiety attacks when you see properly restrained forward-facing 2-year-olds?

9.  Do you always remember to secure your purse with an available safety belt?

10.  On Halloween, do you hand out copies of the 5-Step Test flyer instead of candy? (If you hand out the flyer WITH candy – that doesn’t count as a yes.)

If you answered yes to more than 1 question above – please do yourself a favor and go volunteer some of your time at carseat check events in the lowest, low-income inner-city area you can find within driving distance.  If you don’t have any impoverished inner-city areas within driving distance, then a rural, migrant farm worker community will suffice.  All kidding aside, these are the types of places where your knowledge, passion, and dedication to Child Passenger Safety are desperately needed.  And seeing the frightening reality of how these children ride around every day will really help you to appreciate the beautiful sight of a properly restrained, albeit forward-facing, 2-year-old.  Everything in life is relative and a healthy perspective will keep you focused on the bigger picture – and help you avoid going off the deep end in the process.

~Kecia

Prevent a Heatstroke Tragedy

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Your 4-year-old is watching her favorite movie for the 57th time. You tell her that you’re going to take a quick shower before you take her to story time at the library. Fifteen minutes later, you’re showered and getting dressed. You hear the movie still playing and you assume that she’s where you left her in front of the TV. Five minutes later you discover she isn’t where you thought she was. You look in her bedroom and check the kitchen. She’s not there. You yell her name as you move quickly through the rest of the house but don’t find her. Starting to panic, you check the backyard and the pool but no sign of her. You are now screaming her name but get no response. You rush outside and look up and down the street, but no sign of her anywhere. Where is your child??? Then it hits you, check your vehicles in the driveway!

When you find your daughter in the minivan with the doors closed, she’s hot, disoriented and breathing rapidly—but she’s alive. You run her into the cool house and call 911. The EMS responders who arrive on scene recognize that your child is suffering from heatstroke, and take measures to start cooling her internal body temperature. She is rushed to the nearest pediatric emergency department where she will spend the next 24 hours. Your child is going to recover from this nearly tragic incident but what happened and how can you prevent this from happening to someone else’s child?

What you didn’t realize was that while you were showering, your daughter decided that she wanted her Shopkins that she left in the minivan yesterday. She knew exactly where she’d left them and she knew the key fob with your vehicle key was on the kitchen counter where you always put the keys. She took your keys, went to the driveway and opened the sliding door to the van. When she climbed in, she hit the button to close the sliding door because that’s what she’s seen you do. She found all 12 of her Shopkins and started playing with them. After a few minutes, she began to feel hot but kept playing. Another few minutes passed and the heat really started to get to her but by now she was upset and disoriented. She started to cry. She didn’t remember how to get out. A few more minutes passed and you finally found her.

Every year this scenario plays out across the country with slightly different variables. It could be a large family gathering and all the cousins are playing hide and seek. It could be early Sunday morning and your 2-year-old wakes up before everyone else and decides that he needs that half-eaten lollipop that he left in the cupholder of his carseat yesterday. There are so many paths to these types of tragedies but they all have certain commonalities. In each case, the child is able to gain access to a vehicle without supervision. Sometimes the vehicle is unlocked (who locks their vehicle when it’s parked in the garage?), other times the child is smart enough to know how to unlock the vehicle and open the door. Minivans with automatic sliding doors are especially easy for young children to access with a key fob. You may not even realize that your child knows how to do this!

What can you do to prevent these types of tragedies?

1. Always keep your parked vehicle locked, even if it’s in the garage.

2. Keep your car keys/fob out of the reach of small children.

3. Teach your children to never hide or play in a vehicle or the trunk of a car.

4. Teach your children to never go inside a vehicle to get something without a grownup.

5. You can also teach your child to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped in a vehicle.

Harness and Belt Fit: When Not to Worry

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Should You Really Be Concerned about Harness and Seat Belt Geometry?

A common question parents ask is whether or not the buckle should be sitting so high on their child after he’s buckled in the carseat. Caregivers may have heard that the buckle should fit low on the hips, like a seat belt, or have seen that the harness fits their child differently than their friend’s child who rides in a different carseat.

The simple answer is that harness geometry differs by manufacturer and may even differ within that manufacturer’s line. The lap portion of the harness may ride higher on your child’s belly in your rear-facing infant seat whereas it sits lower across his thighs when he rides in his convertible seat made by the same manufacturer. Any insert that comes with the carseat will also affect whether the straps cross your child’s thighs or his hips.

    

The harness may also sit quite differently on a newborn than it does on a larger child because a newborn has skinnier legs. Manufacturers certify their carseats to fit a wide range of weights and all children are proportionally built differently.

The harness also serves several purposes: it restrains a child in a crash, contacts the strongest parts of the body (the bones), spreads out the crash forces over a large part of the body, helps the body ride down crash forces, and protects the head, neck, and spinal cord. The direction the carseat faces plays a role too; a buckle sitting high on a child’s belly plays less of an injury role on a rear-facing carseat because the carseat itself is bearing the brunt of the crash force as are the shoulder straps.

One feature being provided by manufacturers that can greatly change the way the harness sits on your child’s legs is crotch strap length adjustment. Clek’s innovative way of adjusting crotch strap length is to provide two straps of different lengths on one buckle (see pics below). Baby Trend infant seats have adjustable crotch straps and require the buckle latches to be ½”-1″ from the baby’s thighs. Other manufacturers allow the crotch strap to be routed back through the outside slot, which greatly reduces the length and brings the harness down on the thighs.

  

The one place where harness fit counts is in the shoulder slot height. When your child is rear-facing, the straps must be at or below her shoulders. Why? The majority of crashes are frontal crashes and in all crashes, everything, including your child, will move toward the point of impact. Your rear-facing carseat will dip down and allow your child to slide up the seat. If the harness is positioned above her shoulders, she’ll slide up until she reaches the harness. Then on rebound—after the crash happens and everything that moved toward the impact comes back and settles—your child will slide back down in her seat. That’s a lot of movement and potential for injury, so keeping her down in her seat in the first place is important.

When forward-facing, you want the straps to be at or above her shoulders to hold her back in a crash. The carseat will again move down and toward the front of the vehicle. If the slots used are below her shoulders, possible spinal compression can occur as she’s held down and her shoulders roll forward.

  

So, for harness use, as long as the shoulder slots are properly positioned, everything else is good (as an end-user, you can’t really redesign where the lap straps are coming out of the carseat anyway). What about belt-positioning boosters and seat belts? Doesn’t using a belt-positioning booster automatically mean proper seat belt positioning?

No.

With boosters, you want the lap portion of the seat belt to fit low on the hips, touching the thighs—and there’s quite a range of what that means. Clothing can get in the way of seeing where the belt actually lies on the lap, so when assessing lap belt fit, it’s good for the child to be wearing snug-fitting clothing. The shoulder belt should be squarely on the shoulder—closer to the neck than the edge of the arm where it may slide off. It should also be noted here that since your child won’t always be wearing snug-fitting clothing, when she’s wearing jeans or other bulky clothing, she should be taught to pull the lap belt snug and low on her hips after buckling.

Younger children tend to have narrow torsos, so getting proper shoulder belt fit on them is more difficult because there’s no room for the seat belt. For a narrow kid like this, it’s better to have the shoulder belt closer to the neck—but not over the throat—so that in a crash, the child can’t slip out of the shoulder belt. Adjusting the headrest up on the booster sets the shoulder belt closer to the neck. The child below shows that she’s too small for a backless booster; she should ideally be in a harnessed seat or at the very least a highback booster so the shoulder belt is positioned better on her. A shoulder belt positioner attached to a backless booster can help too, but not as well as a highback booster. The seat belt is also not adjusted securely on her.

The lap belt portion of the seat belt should be touching or partially laying on the thighs. It can be too far forward on the thighs, which can lead to sliding (submarining) under the seat belt in a crash, and of course, it can sit too high on the soft belly, where injury to internal organs can occur in a crash.

 

Of course we can’t forget about the big kids who fit into seat belts. How do you know if your child is big enough to fit into a seat belt without needing a booster seat? There’s an easy test, called the 5-Step Test which allows you to tell if your kid still needs a booster.

5-Step Test
  1. Does the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat?
  2. Are his knees bent comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
  3. Does the seat belt cross the shoulder properly on the center of the collar bone?
  4. Is the lap belt low, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay this way for the entire ride?

Vehicle seat belts are designed to fit adult males, not children. It’s not safe for them to sit in one unless it fits them well; they’re at risk for seat belt syndrome, serious head injuries, broken bones, and death. Most kids won’t fit in a seat belt without a booster until around ages 11-12.

Hot Cars and Kids: A Deadly Combination

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Another summer and kids are starting to die almost daily because the temperature is heating up and what didn’t injure them earlier in the year is lethal now. Last week alone, 4 children died from being left unattended in hot vehicles. To date, 12 children have died in 2018 from being left in vehicles; outside temperatures ranged from 81° to 99°, though in previous years, children have died when temps have been in the 60s and 70s. Children’s body temperatures heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults’ so organ damage can happen quickly.

A vehicle’s interior can increase in temperature by 19° in 10 minutes and go up another 10° after another 10 minutes. Within only 20 minutes, your car’s interior temp has increased by 29°—if it started at 70°, it’s now 99° and roasting. It’s only up from here.

It’s easy to make parenting judgments about the parents who left their children in vehicles, how awful they are and that they should never have been parents in the first place. But there is science behind how the brain works and how it can forget really important things—like kids—when it has been stressed or exhausted or out of a routine. If you aren’t the first to realize your brain may react this way, your child is at risk too.

Here are 10 important tips to help prevent more tragedies:

  1. If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle (including the trunk!)—check neighbor’s pools and vehicles second.
  2. Arrange to have your childcare provider contact you when your child doesn’t show up that day. Make sure they have multiple contact numbers to call/text and that they keep calling until they reach a live person.
  3. Keep all vehicles LOCKED at all times, even when they are in the garage and keep your keys/key fobs out of reach.
  4. Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat when you are driving.
  5. Utilize available technology: Some Evenflo carseats, the Cybex Sirona M, and the Baby Trend Secure Snap Fit have technology available to let you know if your child has been left in the carseat. Some vehicles also have backseat reminders, and Hyundai is anticipating adding a rear seat sensor system in some 2019 model year vehicles.
  6. Another option, put one shoe in the back seat when you are driving—you’re not going to walk away from your vehicle without your other shoe!
  7. Make it a habit to always look in the back seat when getting out of the car.
  8. Teach your children that it’s NEVER okay to play in the car or to go into the car to get something without a grown-up.
  9. Teach your children NEVER to hide in the car or inside the trunk.
  10. However, also teach your children to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped inside a vehicle.

And don’t forget about pets and the elderly! All of these populations have bodies that heat up faster than healthy adults and they cannot handle the heat as well. We may intend to run into the store for only 5 minutes, but circumstances may change and that quick trip may end up taking 15 minutes. It’s better to err on the side of safety and not risk a life.

 

Infographics provided by noheatstroke.org, run by meteorologist Jan Null. He keeps this website up-to-date with the sad statistics and other scientific data regarding hot vehicles.