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You Asked: How do I keep my kids safe when someone else is driving?

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While it may sound like an exaggeration, I find driving my own kids around to be kind of scary, because while I can control my car seats and the way I’m driving, no matter how hard I try I can’t control other drivers. But that fear doesn’t hold a candle to the fear of sending my kids off in someone else’s car. When someone else drives my children, not only am I not in control of any of the drivers, but I’m also not usually in charge of the car seating either. And a few years ago, this concern came to life in the scariest way.

While I was in labor with my second son, my husband got a phone call. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about since we had enough going on in that moment, but once the baby was safely delivered, he told me that the call had been to let us know that our oldest child had been in a crash. Thankfully, he was fine because it was a minor collision and because the driver had installed his seat correctly and had buckled him in properly. It was the best outcome of a personal worst case scenario.

When a friend asked me how to help keep her baby safe when someone else was driving him around, I realized that it’s not a topic we spend enough time covering. I’d like to share some of the tips I’ve developed that give me peace of mind when other people drive my kids.

You Asked: How do I keep my kids safe when someone else is driving?

First and foremost, never let someone talk you into something that doesn’t feel safe or isn’t legal. This is a good life mantra in general, but I mean it specifically for child passenger safety today.

It doesn’t matter if grandma finds a booster seat to be more convenient – if your child isn’t ready, it isn’t the right choice. It doesn’t matter if your aunt thinks he looks so cramped rear facing, if your child isn’t 2 yet or if you just aren’t ready to turn him around, don’t do it. You are the boss of your kids, don’t be afraid to make the tough, but safe, choice for your child. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for your choices either.

Now that that’s out of the way, there are several ways to help keep your child(ren) safe in someone else’s car.

If you can, install their seat yourself and demonstrate harnessing with your child in the seat. If possible, you even want to be the person who does the final buckling before they drive off. This is the gold standard in an ideal situation, but it’s also not possible a lot of the time so you may have to get a bit more creative.

If installing the seat yourself isn’t a possibility, talk your child’s caregiver through the process ahead of time, when time isn’t limited and there’s no pressure. Also, provide them with a manual that you’ve reviewed recently. My trick is that I pull the digital version up on my phone so that if there are questions, I can easily refer to the manual myself and give tips. This actually helped me out just last month when my son’s babysitter needed to remove his (latched) booster out of her car before I got there and she didn’t know how to do it. I was able to scroll through the manual, find the page and show her what to do.

If the person isn’t confident with the installation or you want to offer an extra support, you can send links to youtube installation videos. I’m sure some will think this is overkill and that’s fine, but I am of the mind that I’d rather offer too much help than not enough.

Once you’re confident with the installation, show the caregiver how the harness should be, in person if possible. If your child will be wearing the same clothes the whole time they’re with this caregiver, you can get them harnessed in the seat and then remove them from the seat without loosening the straps so it’s appropriately tight. If you do this, make sure to show how to tighten and loosen the harness, just in case your caregiver needs to. If you can’t demonstrate in person, showing them images like these can help.

If your child is old enough to understand and remember, start teaching them car seat rules. My 3 and 5 year old know where their chest clips go and that their harness should feel “snug as a hug”. We started working on this when they were 2 years old, though it takes some time and repetition. Every time I buckled them, I would have them show me where the chest clip should be. Then I would tighten and ask if they were “snug as a hug.” Once I felt like they had a good grasp on the idea, I would occasionally not tighten them fully and see how they responded when I asked if their harness was snug. Truthfully, teaching my kids this has even saved me on several occasions when I’ve started to back out of our driveway without tightening the straps on my 5-year-old who buckles himself, but cannot tighten the straps on his own.

Teaching your kids how their seat should feel and be positioned, and that it’s okay to speak up about it (politely, obviously), will go a long way towards keeping them safe when you can’t be with them.

So, you asked: how do I keep my kids safe when someone else is driving and the simple answers are:
  1. Install the seat yourself, or make sure the person installing it knows exactly what to do.
  2. Demonstrate proper harnessing or show pictures so they know exactly what to do.
  3. As your children acquire language and an opinion, teach them what proper usage should look and feel like so they can advocate for themselves.

More on keeping kids safe in the car:

5 Tips for Sharing Carseat Tips with Friends

Tweenbelt Safety

Throwback Thursday: Safety Devices of Yore

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I was browsing through some old patent drawings from the National Archives (as one does) and I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of them were for safety devices. Since this is a safety-related blog, and since we haven’t done an old-fashioned Throwback Thursday post for a while, I figured I’d share some with you.

Poison Prevention

When a picture of a skull-and-crossbones isn’t enough, this bottle for holding poison comes complete with sharp spikes to deter people from grabbing it unless they really, really need to.

Drowning Prevention

This hat is intended to keep people from drowning, although it might work best if one’s head already happens to be a balloon.

Fire Escape

This intricate system of ropes and pulleys would allow people to be lowered to the ground during a fire. It’s not a bad idea (at least in theory–I’m not entirely clear on how it works), but I love the look on this guy’s face. He’s super nonchalant, like he escapes from fires every day and is getting really bored with it now.

Sports Safety

It’s worth remembering that once upon a time, catchers didn’t wear gear at all, so even though this isn’t as sleek as what catchers of today wear, it’s better than nothing, I guess. Plus, this face-and-chest-protector, which looks like a miniature prison, would probably deter collisions at the plate because I don’t know who’d want to run into that.

Transportation Comfort

Have you seen those hammocks you’re supposed to attach to yourself and to your airplane tray table before putting your baby inside? (Note: CarseatBlog does not recommend using those. Babies belong in car seats on a plane.) Well, this invention reminds me of that…only it’s for adults! And you could use it on so many different kinds of transportation! Just attach part of it to your seat, part to the seat in front of you, then hoist yourself up and go to sleep.

Handsfree Phone

Okay, this isn’t really a safety thing since people in 1882 wouldn’t have been using their phones while driving. But still, I like this early “Bluetooth” idea, even if it’s not completely wireless.

Creepy Baby

This isn’t safety related at all, but I felt like I should include it anyway.

Lest it seem that I’m making fun of any of these ideas (and okay, I am, but just a little), I do recognize that every safety device we have today came from somewhere, usually with roots in the distant past. Ideas and products evolve over time, and I give each of these inventors credit for coming up with solutions to problems of their day, and probably doing a better job than I could have. I sort of hope that 100 years from now, someone will be laughing at how ridiculous our safety products are, because that would mean they’ve gotten a lot better.

You spin me right round, baby.

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Roundabouts have been around for awhile, and I’m sure they’re more popular in some areas of the country than others. I just found out that Northerners call them rotaries. Silly Northerners. 😉

We’ve mostly had 4 way stops at our intersections, and the number of accidents, even fatal ones, have been phenomenally high. Traffic lights require money, so therefore a roundabout at the most problematic of intersections was decided upon. It is BFFs with the older roundabout down the road a quarter mile, so basically our main road is a stretch of whirly twirly fun.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that not everyone seems to know how to use a roundabout. I can count fairly high the number of times people have shown me gestures of love because I didn’t stop inside the roundabout to let them in. It’s also very common for people to brake inside the roundabout and wait for me to enter. Neither scenario is correct, and increases risk for traffic incidents.

Roundabouts are beneficial for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they reduce the number of accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in the most recent of studies, they reduce total accidents by about 35%, and injuries by 76%. Fatalities in a roundabout are nearly unheard of. That’s much better than getting t-boned when someone runs a stop sign at a 4 way stop! They also improve the flow of traffic, let people make u-turns safely, and require little maintenance.

So, how do you properly use a roundabout and avoid being “that guy”? One word, yield. You yield to traffic within the circle. You don’t stop within the circle to let someone in. You don’t pull into the circle in front of a car thinking they are supposed to yield to you. You stop at the entrance, wait for a break in traffic, and enter. When you exit the circle, use your signal so the car at the next entrance knows you are exiting and does not have to wait for you to pass. If you’ve never used one, they do take some time to get used to. However, after awhile, they’re very straight forward and it’s great to not have to stop completely like you would at a stop sign, providing flow is low and there’s no one in the circle for you to wait on.

So there you go. Now you know how to use a roundabout. Or a rotary. Life tidbits ya’ll, you’ll thank me next time you go on a road trip and come across one of these monstrosities.

2018 Recommended Carseat Ratings Update

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CarseatBlog Helps You Find the Safest and Best Car Seats for 2018

Once or twice a year we make incremental updates to our Recommended Carseats award list. A couple aging products are usually removed, perhaps a replacement is added.  We’ve also added jump links and an improved pull-down menu to allow easier access to each section of the list. The intent of this list is not to exclude the many fine carseats that didn’t quite make our cut, but instead to help consumers narrow down their choices to models we most highly recommend. These are likely to work well with the widest range of children and vehicles.  In order to have a reasonable list that doesn’t include dozens of products in each category, we make tough choices to include fewer products in each category that we feel are the best places to start your search.

At the bottom is our helpful short list of Editors’ Picks, an award for favorite models rated by our expert staff. This more exclusive list narrows down our larger number of Recommended Carseats to our top choices. For most categories, we also select our top picks by budget category, limiting the selections to just one or two carseats in each price range. If you are in a hurry and want to know what to buy, this is the place to start! While premium carseats usually offer more features and tend to be easier to use, our midrange and budget picks are also very safe choices that we would use without hesitation for our own children.

If your favorite carseat didn’t make one of our lists, please don’t despair! We’re not saying these are the best choices for every situation.  Our lists are simply a good starting point for consumers who are carseat or booster shopping.  And since there are no guarantees, we always recommend purchasing at a local store with a no-questions-asked free return policy of at least 30 days, or an online store like Amazon.com that offers free shipping and free returns on most carseats they sell directly.  Sometimes, even our favorite products won’t work for a particular family, so you don’t want to pay a restocking fee or $50 to ship it back!

We acknowledge that many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints. All current seats pass the same FMVSS 213 minimum testing standards, they are all safe when used correctly, etc., etc. In the course to become certified, most techs were told never to tell a parent that one child seat or brand is better than any other. Instead, technicians are often instructed to tell parents that the best seat is the one that fits their child, installs well in their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly. We agree.

However, the reality is that once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences. Some child restraints do tend to install better in general, while some really are easier to use in general. Features like lockoffs for seatbelt installations and premium push-on lower LATCH connectors do make a difference in the vast majority of installations, but that doesn’t mean that every seat that lacks those features is not worthy of your consideration.

With all that said, please take our recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all, and our criteria may vary from yours or those you find elsewhere online or in print. Despite our best efforts, we recognize that no list of this type can be completely objective. And while our team of child passenger safety experts thoughtfully considered the pros and cons of each seat and combined that with our considerable hands-on experience with each product – there’s no crash testing involved.  In fact, there simply is no comprehensive system for safety comparisons based upon proven crash testing methods for carseats from any agency or website in the USA or Canada.  In our ratings, some seats were omitted simply because we opted to include a very similar model from the same manufacturer. For others, we simply didn’t have enough experience with the product yet to form an opinion. There are a number of great products that we have reviewed, but just missed the cut for our awards and are still worthy of consideration. Conversely, we recognize that some models we recommend won’t work well for everyone.

To summarize, our recommendations are a good starting place for shoppers and one of many resources to consider in your search.  If a carseat does not appear on our list, that doesn’t necessarily mean we dislike the product or even imply that we give it a “Not Recommended” rating.  We may simply not have a full review of it.

We hope you will use and share our recommendations as useful shopping advice in your search for the best carseat for your needs!