Beyond the Car Seat Minimums - Alabama

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Car Seat Winter Safety "Baby, it's COLD outside!"

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on December 31, 2014 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (75)

It's that time of the year! Time to light the fires, pull out the thick quilts, and curl up on the couch to sip your hot chocolate!


Most people also think it's time to bundle up the kids and loosen the car seat straps to accommodate their winter clothing. Unfortunately, this is not safe!
We're here to look at the dangers of winter wear in car seats,
and all the SAFE alternatives that parents can do!

What are the Dangers?


Most parents believe that as long as they adjust the tightness of the harness straps, their child is safe wearing a thick coat in their restraint.


Here we see Johannah wearing a close fitting, thick coat in her car seat. The straps are tightened enough to pass the Pinch Test, and by those standards, are safe and secure.


During an accident, crash forces are put on the harness and child. These forces continue to compress the coat, more than any parent can replicate beforehand. Therefore, the straps react as if the coat isn't there at all, and the harness is completely loose on the child.
(Imagine the coat in a space-saver bag. A parent can put the coat in the bag and remove a lot of the bulk with just their hands. It's not until you use the vacuum hose, that you can see the difference in compression, just like the compression that will take place during an accident.)

If we remove Johannah's coat without adjusting the harness straps at all, we can see how loose her straps really were. This is how they would react in an accident, which could lead to ejection and/or serious injury.

This compression can happen with coats, snowsuits, and bundle bags. The rule of thumb is to not use any extra "fluff or puff" in your seat that goes behind the child, or in between the child and harness other than their regular fitting clothing.

What do the Car Seat Manufacturers Say?

Look in your child restraint manual. Somewhere in the warnings section, you'll probably find a note about bulky clothing. Here's the warning that is in the Evenflo Maestro Car Seat Manual.

How Do I Know if my Child's Coat is Safe for Use in Their Seat?

The easiest way to know if a coat or snowsuit is safe for car seat use is to test it out just like we did with Johannah. Put the child in their seat with their coat on, and adjust IT SECURELY. Unbuckle the harness WITHOUT loosening the straps, and re-buckle without the coat on. If the harness is still snug and passes the Pinch Test, then that coat is safe to wear in the seat. If the harness is too loose, skip that coat. (An alternative test is to buckle the child without the coat on, and without adjusting the harness at all, try to re-buckle it with the coat on. If you can still buckle it, you're good to go! If it's too tight and unable to buckle with the coat underneath, that coat is a no-go.)


There are a lot of ways to keep your children warm AND safe in their seats!
Here are some of our favorites!

Flip it Around

One of the quickest and easiest solutions is to turn the child's coat around backwards once they are buckled in their seat! If your child is older, like the boy in this picture provided by our friends at the Super Car Seat Geek, it's easy for them to learn to take their coat off when they get to the car, get buckled, and then allow you to help them put the coat on again. You don't have to worry about taking anything extra with you, and their coat is right there when they're ready to hop out of the car.


No, really- just blankets! So many people ignore this easy option! It's especially convenient if you're still using an infant car seat. You can buckle the baby securely, and then tuck in the warmth with blankets before you even step outside the house.

Infant Seat Covers

If you're worried that your little bundle will kick off their bundle of blankets, there are a few safe options of covers for your infant carriers. The key is to find one that only goes over the TOP of the carrier, and not a bundle bag that goes behind the baby as well. Something like a "Cozy Cover" is what we refer to as a "shower cap style" cover. The elastic edge pops over the outside of the seat quickly, and doesn't interfere with the harness. It's easy to tuck blankets around the baby first, and know that they won't get kicked off.

There are also some infant covers that attach to the handle of the car seat and drape down like a blanket. These are great for blocking the wind while going to and from the car on those really blustery days!

(Please note that this little baby was just modeling for us, and the child would need to be securely buckled before heading out to the vehicle!)


To me, the only thing more annoying than SpongeBob is listening to Snuggie commercials. BUT, that doesn't mean I knock the SpongeBob Snuggie sitting in my backseat!
Snuggies are great for bigger kids who want their hands free, while keeping the rest of them warm!

And, YES! The no-coat rule should be followed by kids in boosters, and adults in just seat belts! To properly restrain you, the seat belt needs to sit snugly against your body. If you add extra "fluff and puff" that needs to compress first, your body will move a lot more before the seat belt can stop you!


Fleece is a fabulous little material that is super thin while still being super warm! Most kids can wear a single layer fleece coat over their clothes without having to adjust the tightness of the harness on their seats. Combining it with mittens, hats, and any additional blankets makes for a toasty warm ride! It's also warm enough that it's easy to wear when walking to-and-from the car without getting cold.

Car Seat Poncho

Since fleece is so warm, it makes fabulous ponchos! It's easy to buckle the child securely and have the poncho drape around them like a big cozy blanket! If you're feeling the least bit crafty, there are many tutorials online for making your own poncho. There are even no-sew versions, like this one pictured.

A perk of having the poncho is that it's easy to wear to and from the car, and set the child in the seat without having to take it off. Just move some of the fabric to the side while you buckle the harness, and then lay it flat! The back of the poncho goes up the back of the car seat, so there's no fabric between the child and the seat.

Pregnancy Seat Belt Safety

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on June 30, 2014 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (1)

Are you expecting a new baby? These tips can keep you and your unborn child safe in the vehicle!

Evenflo Recall Notice

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on April 4, 2014 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Recall Announced - April 4, 2014


Evenflo announced a voluntary recall on several of their child restraint models that used the AmSafe buckle. If you own one of these seats, you can contact Evenflo for a replacement buckle. In the meantime, your seat is still safe to use!


Affected models include: Momentum65 models, Chase models, Maestro and Maestro Performance, Symphony models, Titan65 and SureRide DLX, and Secure Kid models including the Snugli brand. There is a variety of manufacture dates, depending on the affected model, so please check Evenflo's official statement to determine if your seat is included!


You can see the full list of affected seats and manufacture dates HERE.

Harness Height Placement

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on March 24, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Not sure where your child's car seat harness should be coming from in relation to the child's shoulders? It is actually very important, and you don't want your child riding around with an improperly placed harness!

Graco Recall Notice

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on February 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Graco Children's Products has issued a recall on certain models of the ARGOS 70, CLASSIC RIDE 50, COMFORT SPORT, COZY CLINE, MY RIDE 65, MY RIDE 70, MY RIDE W/SAFETY SURROUND, NAUTILUS, NAUTILUS ELITE, SIZE 4 ME 70, MYSIZE 70, HEADWISE 70, and SMARTSEAT with manufacture dates between 2009 and July 2013.
The crotch buckle may become difficult to open, and in some cases are unable to be unlatched to release the child.

The buckle issue DOES NOT affect the crash worthiness or safety of your seat.  You can continue to use your seat while waiting for a replacement buckle from Graco.  We recommend keeping a seat belt cutter 
in your vehicle in case of an emergency situation.  


Owners may contact Graco at 1-800-345-4109 (toll-free) or online HERE if they own one of the affected seats.

We feel it is important to note that this recall includes over 3 million seats.  Graco's customer service lines and email responce will be extremely busy while trying to help all of their customers who have an affected seat.  Please be patient while you are waiting to get confirmation from Graco about the status of your replacement buckle.

Less than 1% of these millions of restraints have been reported to NHTSA for this buckle issue.  While some parents might have experienced these difficulties without reporting it, it's good to remember that it is still a very small portion of these seats that have a problem.  There is no need to panic about the safety of your seat while you wait for a replacement piece.  Any of these seat models that are available for purchase now already have the new buckle system, and there is no concern for a parent to purchase a new Graco seat during this time.

Infant Seats and Shopping Carts

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on January 16, 2014 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

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Have you seen this video making its way around the web? We're very happy to see that this security camera caught an occurrence with a happy ending, but we know all too well what could have happened to this little baby.


Infant car seats are not designed to go on top of shopping carts. Even if the seat seems to "click" onto the cart, it is unstable. (And since the seat wasn't designed to click there, there is a risk of damaging the locking mechanism that is supposed to keep the seat attached to the base during an accident.) The cart's center of gravity changes with a seat on top, and it becomes top heavy. Just turning a corner can cause the entire cart to tip over. A simple bump of the cart is enough to make the car seat fall off entirely.


One of the most common comments that we hear from parents regarding this situation is, "I'm always right there, and make sure that nothing bumps the cart." In this video, the cart itself doesn't move until after the seat has tipped over. If you watch closely, you can see that the baby simply kicked it's legs, and that was enough force to tip the unstable seat.


Check the *Warnings* section of your infant car seat manual. Chances are, you'll find a warning specifically about shopping carts. Until recently, there was only one seat manufacturer that stated in the manual to "only place it on the shopping cart if it was secure." Even that manual has been changed, and now states to keep the car seat off of any elevated surface.


   (Highlighted portion in the WARNINGS section of a Graco Snugride35)

It seems like a minor concern, but not all babies have been as lucky as this little one in the video. We've seen the news stories of babies being injured or killed from these falls. Luckily, it's an easy thing to prevent!

Combi Recall

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on January 3, 2014 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Combi has issued a recall on certain models of the Cocorro, Zeus 306, and Zeus Turn car seats for a concern about the harness webbing. If you have one of the affected seats, Combi will send you a harness kit with instructions for replacement. (If you registered your seat, you don't need to do anything- Combi will contact you! If you have one of the seats listed within the affected manufacture dates and did not register it, you can contact Combi with your information.)

New LATCH Law - What Does it Mean For YOU?

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 27, 2013 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By now, you've probably seen one of the many news articles posted around the internet about the new LATCH laws going into effect in 2014, and you're probably pretty confused.


What is the law changing?


Honestly, there isn't much change for the average parent. The new law will affect how the car seat manufacturers have to label their seats, and the way they will be doing crash testing.


NHTSA is requiring bigger crash test dummies to be used for testing of seats that have high harness weight limits. (Seats that harness between 50-65lbs will need to use the "6 year old" Dummy, and seats that harness above 65lbs will use the "10 year old" Dummy.) If the combined weight of the dummy and the car seat is 65lbs or above, then the LATCH will not be used in testing; only a seat belt installation will be done.


After February 2014, all car seat manufacturers will be required to add a label to their restraints that clearly states the weight of the seat, or the max weight of the child allowed to install with LATCH. The combined weight of the child and the seat cannot be above 65lbs.


How does this affect YOU using your seat?


LATCH has always had a weight limit. Because it varies by seat manufacturer and car seat manufacturer, there has not always been a clear answer for parents to know when to stop using LATCH. The new regulations have the intention of making it easier to know, and having the car seats labeled should help remove some of the confusion.


Most vehicle manufacturers have already announced that they have made this weight change to their LATCH system, but only some have made it retroactive. Some vehicles simply state to refer to your specific child restraint for the LATCH limit. Sometimes you'll have a combination of vehicle and car seat that state two different LATCH limits, and in those cases you should always use the lowest limit stated.


Always check with your car seat manual AND your vehicle manual to determine your LATCH weight limit. Once that limit is reached, you must change to a seat belt installation.

LATCH was designed to be a more convenient option for installing child seats, not a safer option. The seat belt and LATCH are equally safe when used correctly, so there is no concern of having to switch to a seat belt installation for your seats.


If you're having trouble locating your LATCH limits, contact a CPST. Many have a LATCH Manual that they can reference for all the details of your car seat and vehicle combinations.

Admin Megan's Crash (Seat Replacement Process)

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Have you been in an accident? Not sure of what to do about your car seats? One of our admins walks you through her experiences after being in a severe collision with her children on August 11, 2013.


Megan and her three children were in a multiple impact collision. It was a new experience for all 4 of them, and they hope that it is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence!


Everyone was safe, and she truly believes that a lot of credit needs to go to the properly used car seats.  They gave their lives for her children's safety!


Here is a letter from Megan, explaining her experience for car seat replacement.

"Not many people know that most car seat manufacturers require seat replacement after any type of collision and even fewer people know that their car insurance should cover the cost of car seat replacement, so it's not surprising that many insurance companies try to avoid the cost. After our collision, we called our insurance company to file a claim. We were asked multiple questions about our vehicle's damage, and the occupants inside. We were never asked about the kids' car seats. When the agent asked us if we had any questions, we asked about car seat replacement. We were told to "bring the seats to the adjuster's attention when he looks over the vehicle, and he can inspect them." When we explained that the manufacturer requires replacement even if there's no visible damage, we were again instructed to just show them to the adjuster.


The next day, we met with the claims adjuster with our vehicle. Sadly, our beloved van was determined to be totaled, with an estimate of at least $15,000 in damage. We asked the adjuster about our car seat replacement. He told us to "look over the belt path area of the seats, and if there's no kind of damage that you can see, they'll be fine to continue to use." Had we been the "average parent," we would have gone on our way with that, and continued to use the seats. We looked at them and the belt paths on all three seats looked pristine. It's scary to think that a seat that went through such a severe collision could look like it just came off the store shelf. Luckily, with our knowledge of car seat safety, we were able to inform the adjuster of the manufacturer requirements. We explained that there could be internal damage to any of the seats that would cause them to fail in a future incident, and that it's not a gamble we were willing to take with our children. He eventually agreed to replace the car seats. He gave us a check that day for their estimated cost based on printouts from an online retailer. (I came prepared, and already had looked up each seat in order to print out a copy of their price!) He gave us instructions for replacement, including sending a copy of the receipt for each seat to the claims agent, as well as returning the crashed seats to them for proper disposal. It's frustrating to know that they have a process for destroying crashed seats, and it still took over 20 minutes of conversation before he even agreed to replace them! My biggest tip for this process is to be respectful, but STAND YOUR GROUND!


We ordered replacement seats and while we were waiting, we got curious. Our seats looked perfectly safe. We couldn't see any damage. *Could they really be okay?* We decided to "investigate" a little bit, and we disassembled all of the seats. One booster seat still showed no damage even after we took it apart, but we know that there could still be internal weakening of the plastic. We were shocked to find visible damage on the other two seats, though! Had we not taken them apart, we never would have known! The booster seat's head restraint foam had a large indentation from where my child's head hit it. The convertible seat, that had been used rear-facing, showed damage to the shell around the right side of the anti-rebound bar attachment, as well as damage to the rebound bar itself. There was a piece of the shell that was completely bent and cracked. We continued to take apart the seats and label them as dangerous to use. In case there is some kind of delay in the insurance company destroying the seats, we wanted to make sure no one could mistake them as something useful. They have done their job."

1- Dented foam on the right side of the head restraint of the Graco TurboBooster.

2- Bent and broken plastic by the anti-rebound bar attachment on the Clek Foonf.

3- Bent and stressed plastic by the anti-rebound bar attachment on the Clek Foonf.

4- Damage to the anti-rebound bar of the Clek Foonf.

5- All three seats, disassembled and ready for destruction!


Thank you, seats! You did your job well!

Pinch Test (Harness Tightness)

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (3)

How tight is tight enough?

You don't want the harness of your car seat so tight that it's squishing your child, but you definitely don't want it too loose either! To get the correct tightness for a child in a harnessing seat, use the pinch test. If you can easily pinch the harness webbing at the child's shoulders, it's too loose! Your fingers should be able to easily slip off the harness while trying to pinch. Sometimes it helps if you pull up the slack from the hip area first, and then tighten the harness at the shoulders.