Monday, June 15, 2015

Car Seat Safety - Protecting Your Kids

I've had plenty of friends and family members give me a hard time about my obsession with car seat safety. I've had eyes rolled at me and I've been referred to by some as "The Car Seat Nazi".  I've never understood this, and why keeping kids as absolutely safe as possible in the car, is not at the top of everyone's list of things to do.  I've heard all sorts of comments like "We feel comfortable with our decision", or "We made the same choice with their brother/sister and they were fine", when it comes to car seat decisions, and it all just boggles my mind.  The thought process that because another person did something and ended up fine, is really what some people feel comfortable as a basis for their child's safety?  This makes absolutely no sense to me.

There are a lot of things in this world that we can't control when it comes to the safety of our kids. The kind of car seat you use, the way you fasten your kids in their seat, which direction they face, how long they use a car seat, these are all thing you have control over.  Car accidents?  They happen when you least expect them, which is why being prepared and safe is so important.  I literally feel sick to my stomach every time I see a little one facing forward when they shouldn't be, a toddler in booster seat, or even worse, a small child not in a seat at all.  I see people post pictures of their kids buckled incorrectly, or sitting without a booster with the seat belt behind their back and I want to tell them to please buckle their kids in correctly.  The few times that I've mentioned it, people always say they are fine with what they are doing.  I've also seen people comment and say "Never post a picture of your kids in their seat because you'll end up with people telling you they aren't in there correctly."  I guess maybe it is just me, but if my kids aren't safe, I'd be happy to have someone point that out to me.  

Yes, I realize there didn't used to be car seats, and people are alive today to tell about it.  Yes, people get away with not using the correct seat, or not using a seat all the time.  My question is, if you know better, and you know that you really have no control over if and when someone might hit you while you are driving, wouldn't it be in your (and your child's) best interest to make sure they are secured properly?  Does insisting that my kids be in the proper car seat make me a "Car Seat Nazi"?  I really don't feel like I'm being unreasonable here.

There are age, height and weight requirements for seats, and there are laws (differing by state) for car seat requirements.  Those are not suggestions, and are often minimum requirements.  There has been a lot of research done about what happens to babies and toddlers in accidents, and other recommendations made in order to keep your child as safe as possible.  Is it easier to flip your baby around and forward face at 12 months?  Maybe, but I don't really believe it to be any easier or harder to strap a kid in regardless of the direction.  The fact is, that it isn't safe and the odds are much higher for injury if they are forward facing in an accident at that age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you rear face until a minimum of two years old, and it is even better to continue rear facing until 3-4 years of age.  Here is a detailed explanation... Why Rear Facing.

A friend of mine was kind enough to let me use some pictures of her kiddos for this post.  The older of her two girls shown, sat rear facing until her 4th birthday. The little one just turned two and will stay rear facing until her 4th birthday just like her sister.  Looking pretty happy and comfortable if you ask me!  Most importantly though, they are well protected.

My kids both rode in 5 point harness seats well past their 6th birthdays.  My son stayed in a regular booster seat until he was 10 years old and had reached the height requirement to ensure a seat belt would cross his chest in the right spot.  The requirement is height of 4'9" AND 8 years old.  Not one or the other, but both.  The age is because of when their bones have reached a certain stage of development, and the height is for how the chest strap sits on their chest.  My daughter is now in a high back booster, and will be there for quite awhile still.  I don't feel comfortable with her, at six and a half, to sit properly at all times in a regular booster seat.  When she was outgrowing her 5 point harness seat, I did a lot of research, talked with the people at Car Seats for The Littles to find the best type of booster for her and for our cars, and then made my purchase.  I can't imagine putting a child younger than her in a regular booster seat, knowing that there is no way they'll always be sitting correctly.  I see people post pictures of their little ones asleep and folded over in their seats and wish they'd do some research.  This article is such a heartbreaking example of what can happen.  I'd read that article months ago, and while trying to find it for this post, was stunned by how many other similar articles I found.  It is just so incredibly sad how many children have died or been seriously injured all because they weren't properly restrained.
Picture from The Car Seat Nerd

Picture from Super Car Seat Geek

Last winter there was a blogger who boasted about how she'd put let her kid wear his puffy coat in his car seat if she wanted to.  Why?  Because she was the parent and that was her choice to make.  I hate, hate, hate shit like this.  So, you aren't going to do what is safe for your child because "no one is going to tell you how to parent"?  This one really confuses me.  If your child gets seriously injured or dies in a car accident, then that will really show people, won't it!?  Do you win if that happens?   It was shortly after reading her absolute nonsense, that I read about a two year old getting killed in a car accident because he was wearing a coat, and therefore not properly restrained.  If you know better, why don't you do better?  I know I could never live with myself if my child died as a result of me not taking proper car seat precautions.  The whole "all of my kids survived without car seats" kind of comments I get from people make me unbelievably furious. That's only the case because they were lucky and never got into an accident.  People, we know better now.  We know more about the development of kids skeletal system, what kind of car seats are right for each size/age, what happens to their little bodies in an accident, and what the catastrophic results can be if children aren't restrained properly.

I don't care if your kid "hates sitting rear facing", or "doesn't like sitting in a car seat" or my least favorite "we aren't going very far, so we don't need a car seat."  You are the parent, and it is your responsibility to take care of your children.  Kids don't know that they like forward facing better if you never give them the option.  Moving kids to a "big kid" seat isn't an accomplishment, or a milestone to be posted on Facebook, especially if your kid has no business being in that kind of car seat.  My kids never complained about being in their 5 point harness seats until they were older and started seeing friends in different kinds of seats, or not in car seats at all.  When they asked me why their friend got to ride in booster and they didn't, I had no idea how to answer them.  I just said some people make different choices, and my choice is to keep you as safe as I possibly can.  Like I said earlier, there are so many things in this world that we can't control, but if an accident were to happen, I want to know that I've done everything in my power to keep my kids as safe as I can.  Do your research, know why recommendations are what they are.  After that read a few stories from parents who lost kids because they weren't in the seat they should have been in.  I know for me personally, no amount of convenience is worth that risk.  

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