Safety In: Child Passenger Safety
It’s National Child Passenger Safety Technician Week! A Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) is a trained and certified individual that provides information and installations for child passenger restraint, aka car seats. CPSTs are certified through Safe Kids Worldwide, after several days of curriculum and hands-on assessments. Having a child’s car seat inspected and installation assisted by a CPST, along with the education, ensures a safe ride, every ride. Join us as we celebrate week 3 of National Baby Safety Month with…Safety In: Car Seats!
The selection of a child’s car seat is the first step in securing and ensuring a safe ride. Selection, indicates the type of car seat that will be utilized. This decision is based on the caregivers discretion. An infant carrier car seat intended for infants from birth up to age 1. An infant carrier houses a lower weight limit. Infant carriers are ideal for ease of transportation from vehicle to building and/or from vehicle to vehicle. A convertible car seat allows usage from birth to up to age 10 depending on the seat. Convertible car seats are a great seat option if the child restraint will not be transported or shared between vehicles, and provides value in longevity of use. A high-back booster seat is designed for children age 4 and older, and a minimum weight of 40lbs. However, in keeping with our theme of safety, making sure to read the height and weight limits are vital when moving a child up in car seats. High-back boosters with 5-point harnesses are great for a child that is not quite ready for a shoulder/lap belt, but has “outgrown” a convertible car seat. A backless booster is most commonly used for ages 8 and older (height and weight limit suited).
Children should ride in a child passenger restraint for as long as possible, or until they can properly pass the shoulder/lap belt test. No matter the seat you choose, the BEST seat for a child is the one that fits the vehicle it is correctly installed in AND fits the child.
‘What’s the safest location for my baby?” Is a question that is often asked by caregivers getting their seats inspected by CPSTs. While the middle console seat is prime real estate, it’s not always the best bet for safety in all vehicles. With that said, when deciding on where to put a child passenger restraint, keep in mind others that will also be riding in the back with the child. Having a space between car seats could help prevent the accidental unbuckling of another seat. The ease of placing a child in the seat or loading and unloading may be factors for caregivers as well.
No matter the chosen seat location for the car seat, the SAFEST place for a child age 13 and younger, is the backseat. Make a “graduation” for a newly official teen to move to the front seat on that Big 1-3 birthday!
The direction of a child restraint determines if the seat is rear-facing or forward-facing. It is recommended by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) that a child remain rear-facing for as long as their seat allows weight limit-wise. This could very well mean a child older than 3 years old to remain rear-facing. The majority of car seats on the market gear toward rear-facing for as long as possible, and past the previous recommendation of 2 years old. Remember, safety-first!
When a child is extended rear-facing they naturally fold their legs in their seat, creating comfort in a realm that has been familiar to them since birth. Once a child has reached the weight limit of the child restraint for rear-facing, that’s the safest indication of turning the child to forward-facing.
Installation is the method of which the child restraint is secured in a vehicle. There are 3 methods: LATCH, Shoulder-Lap Belt, and Lock-off. LATCH (or Lower Anchor and Tether for CHildren) is standard in ALL vehicles as of 2002. These are those metal bracket along found at the seat bight of the vehicle where the seat meets the back support. Often indicated by little buttons that have a child sitting on a seat. The usage of LATCH was implanted to help caregivers secure child restraints with ease. They can appear differently in every brand of seat. LATCH systems have a weight limit of 65lbs with the combined weight of the child AND the seat. So while LATCH is easy to utilize, it is important to monitor the child’s growth with usage. Using a shoulder/lap belt is the traditional way of securing a child restraint. Making sure that the lap portion is nice and taut and that the shoulder portion secured and locked with no slack. When using a Lock-off (this device will be found on the car seat itself), the lap portion of the seat belt will be pulled taut, while the shoulder belt will remain in the unlock position. This is due to the fact that the lap and shoulder belt is locked at the base of the seatbelt.
No matter the method of installation of the car seat, the rule of thumb is that there should only be ONE method of securing. While using LATCH with a shoulder/lap belt or lock-off may seem like the Ultimate Warrior in safety, this is NOT safe. Each device was built to do its job independently, therefore if using more than one device, the safety and integrity of the seat gets jeopardized. Think of it as wearing contacts AND glasses at the same time, it doesn’t give a person super vision.
Harnessing is the act of securing the child into their child safety restraint. A 5-point harness is what you will find on all infant carriers, convertible car seats, and select high-back booster seats. The 5-point harness secures the child at 5 pivot spots on the body: each side of the hips, each shoulder, and the chest area. The chest clip where the restraint attaches at the chest, should be placed right on that chest bone. One trick is to stick the index fingers under each armpit of the child, then touch thumbs across the chest. That is the placement for the chest clip. With a shoulder/lap belt, if using a high-back booster or backless booster, the lap belt should sit comfortably across the lap of the child, and not across the stomach or hips. We are securing the child, therefore the lap belt across the lap will secure the child in an impact, while the other two spots will injure the child. The shoulder portion of the belt should sit at the middle of the shoulder and not on the neck. If the shoulder/lap belt does not meet the criteria with a backless booster, this is a great indication that the child may be more safely secured in a high-back booster with the shoulder/lap belt, or even back to a 5-point harness.
Harnesses have a weight limit for their usage. Utilizing the maximum weight limit is another great way to ensure that your precious cargo is riding in style.
All child passenger safety restraints on the consumer market have been rated, reviewed, and tested by NHSTA for public usage. Price differences occur due to color, comfort, manufacture, longevity, and brand. Whether you spend $60 on a child safety restraint or $500, consumers can be assured that their seat is safe. For local car seat information or assistance with car seat installation, contact Vegas Family Doulas, and speak to our team CPST! For seat checks and events around the valley, or to support your local Safe Kids chapter, please visit Safe Kids Clark County at: www.safekidsclarkcounty.org
Additional Fun Facts:
- Did you know that car seats expire? Some seats expire within 5 years, while others expire in 10. Look at the label of the car seat for expiration date or date of manufacture. Contact the manufacturer for suggested expiration. As a general rule of thumb, expect 5 years.
- Car seats should never be bought or used second hand unless the full history of the seat is known (no accidents, not expired, all parts working and not jeopardized)
- Many fire stations do not have CPSTs on staff. Due to the timeline it takes to train and become certified, fire fighters are keeping communities safe. Look for your local Safe Kids chapter, AAA agencies, State Farm Insurance Agencies, and independent CPSTs for assistance.
- Registering your child safety restraint with the manufacturer will allow caregivers to receive up-to-date information and recalls on their seat. Registration is free and can be completed online.
- Have an expired seat? Some big box stores have a car seat exchange 1-2 times a year where you can exchange a seat and receive a percentage off of a new child passenger safety restraint. Removing or cutting the harnesses can help make sure that the expired or unsafe seat will not be utilized.
- With cooler weather approaching, instead of bulking up the child with articles of clothing or blankets, instead try wrapping a blanket nice and snug around the baby once they are safely secured in their car seat. This helps prevent the restraint harness from not being accurately utilized.