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 (45)

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.)



ALTERNATIVES

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.



Blankets 

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!)



Snuggies 

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 

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 (0)

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


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!

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!

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.

Pinch Test (Harness Tightness)

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (2)

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.

Rear-Facing Air Bag Warning

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

As stated in every rear facing car seat's manual, you should NEVER install it in front of an air bag. The child's head and neck can be seriously injured when an air bag inflates and hits the back of the restraint.


Where's Your Chest Clip?

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Where's your chest clip? If your child often looks like the picture on the bottom, some changes need to be made! The chest clip is designed to properly pre-position the harness straps over the child, and it should be positioned across the strongest part of the chest. The top of the clip should be at armpit level. It's common for the clip to break open during an accident, after it's done its job of positioning the straps. Having the clip low on the child's belly can damage internal organs, and the ill-positioned harness can allow for ejection.

Booster Sleepers

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Does your booster rider fall asleep in the car and end up looking like these two to the left and top? Booster seats are designed to properly position the seat belt over the strongest points of the child. If the child is slumped forward or to the side, the booster can't do it's job! The seat belt is put in a dangerous position that could cause multiple, possibly life threatening, injuries.

Teach your booster rider how to stay properly seated when he gets tired, like the picture to the right! High back boosters offer some head support that is helpful to lean against, making it easier to stay upright. Having the child turn his chin up slightly, like he is looking toward the ceiling, can help him keep his back strait so he doesn't lean forward. If you ever glance in your back seat and see your child slumped, wake him immediately so that he can re-position correctly.


3 Ways to Install (Infant Seat)

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 26, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Did you know there are generally 3 ways that you can install your infant car seat?

 

1- LATCH installation. The base of your infant seat is equipped with the LATCH system. You can install the base to the Lower Anchors of your vehicle. Your seat then snaps in and out of the base, giving you the convenience of carrying baby to and from the car without taking him out of the seat. (But remember, we do not recommend leaving your baby in the carrier for extended periods of time!) After installing the base correctly, you can know that your seat is safe every time you click it into the car.

 

2- Seat belt installation of the base. If your vehicle is not equipped with LATCH, or if you cannot get a solid installation with the anchors, you can still install your car seat base with the seat belt. Some infant seats even have belt lock-offs on the base to make installation easier with the lap/shoulder belt. This still gives you the convenience of clicking the seat on and off the base.

 

3- Baseless seat belt installation. In most cases, the base is not required to install your infant seat. You can install the seat with the seat belt, by threading it through the seat belt guides on the sides of the carrier. Just remember to check your car seat's recline angle and check for less than an inch of movement at the belt path each and every time you install the seat. You lose the convenience of just clicking it in to the vehicle, but you can still achieve a perfectly safe installation.

 

Always check your car seat manual to see the full instructions for the different ways to install your seat. As always, we also recommend checking with a CPST to make sure you feel confident with your install, and to have any additional questions answered!