Does the idea of getting in the car for Long Periods of Time with the kids bring a pit of dread in your stomach?
You are not alone….
Let’s face it, kids can be hard to keep entertained, especially in the car but you can’t avoid car trips entirely. You have to live your life, and it’s good for the little ones to get out and experience the world.
So, what do you do?
I know the electronics are so tempting – the blissfull peace – no screaming – no fighting but, as with anything kid related you have to do your research first.
When it comes to car seat safety, not all toys are created equal. Hard, seemingly lightweight objects become projectiles in a crash and as much as one hates to bring this up, this became all too real in the news recently. A three-year-old in Vilanova de Arousa, a town in the north-west of Spain, was killed by her flying tablet in September of 2018 when her mother’s car collided with the back of a school bus.
From the BBC:
“Local reports indicate the girl was strapped into an Isofix-anchored child seat but the impact caused the tablet to fly into her face.
Road safety organisations [sic] have stressed that the tragedy was highly unusual.”
Unusual – absolutely – but possible – and preventable.
In that same article, the RAC‘s road safety expert Pete Williams said:
“We have not heard of any similar incidents but it is important to realize that in a high-speed accident any hard object which is not strapped down inside a vehicle has the potential to become a lethal projectile.”
Which is to say, it’s not just the obvious stuff that can become dangerous in a crash. A tablet might be a surprise, but that water bottle, your heavy bag…. Should all be stored in a way that it doesn’t go flying in the event of an accident.
There’s an easy rule you can follow to make the car safe. Toys in the car need to pass the “Ouch!” test. Drop the toy on your head (or just imagine doing it). If you say, “Ouch!” (or think it loudly, tough guy), it’s too heavy or hard or sharp-edged for the car!
Car toys should be soft and light, without hard or sharp bits. Why? Because in the event of a crash, the toy could be launched at your child (or you) at the speed you were going. Would you let a pro baseball player throw the toy at you or your child? If not, it’s probably not right for your car.
Here’s the deal, items at a high velocity have a “feel-like” weight that’s as heavy as the item’s actual weight multiplied by the speed at which you were driving. That means a 2 pound toy in a 50 mile per hour crash can feel like 100 pounds hitting you in a car accident. Ouch!
So, what do you offer your number one YouTube fan for entertainment? Well, we have some ideas for you!
You can use soft, bath-time books, soft plush toys and blanket-toys are also great for car rides. Stickers and other soft things that don’t make too much of a mess can make for a fun activity. Maybe some colorful band-aids for your band-aid bandits?
Meanwhile, slightly older, more responsible and finer-motor-skilled kids can safely have soft-cover books and booklets like invisible ink books, Mad Libs, and Crayola Wonder Finger Paints with special paper.
I read that story about the little one in Spain and my heart grieved for her and her family. Buckle Me Baby Coats wants to make your car rides as easy and safe as possible. Check out our new lineup of curated adorable toys that are perfect for safer adventures in the car seat.
Have you ever wondered if using both the Lower Anchors and a seat belt to secure the car seat would be safer? After all two layers of protection are better than one – right?
The short answer is – it depends…
You can use them at the same time ONLY if both your car seat manual and your cars owners manual AGREE. Otherwise It’s can actually be frighteningly dangerous! (Be sure to check the vehicle owner’s manual AND the car seat guide)
According to Center for Disease Control’s Studies:
- 663 US children 12 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. More than 121,350 were injured in 2014.
- More than 618,000 children 0-12 rode without the use of a car seat, booster seat, or a seat belt at least some of the time.
- Of the children 12 and younger who died in a crash in 2015 (for which restraint use was known), 35% were not buckled up correctly.
When Help is Not Helpful
We’ve all been there – learning the right way to install a car seat safely is confusing, especially if you’ve never done it before! Relying on help from parents or those who had children many years ago can cause a lot of extra misinformation. The rules change all the time and what was the right way to do things before may not be the safest way now!
Your best bet? Visit www.safekids.org to find a certified car seat technician (CPST) in your area. They will help you install the car seat properly – and for free.
So what is the LATCH System Anyway?
Designed by experts at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; the LATCH acronym stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It was “developed to make it easier to correctly install child safety seats without using seat belts.” LATCH can be found in vehicles as well as infant, convertible and forward-facing child safety seats, made after Sept. 1, 2002.
Seat belts and Car Seats
In older vehicles or vehicles without the LATCH System, seat belts are used to install car seats. Car seats have special slots on the backs and sides (depending on the model) that allow a seat belt to be threaded through, anchoring it to the vehicle’s seat and making it safe for children to sit in. Different seat belt systems have different locking mechanisms. Not sure where to look? Look in your car’s owners manual under the child restraint section.
Why Using the LATCH System and a Seat belt Can Be Unsafe
If one way keeps the car seat firmly in place it might seem like two would be even safer but it’s actually dangerous! By using both the Lower Anchors and the seat belt system when you shouldn’t, the force of the crash will place stress on the wrong areas of the car seat, which can cause the car seat not to function properly.
In fact, most manufactures advise that using both doesn’t allow the car seat to move properly during a crash. Preventing natural movement (the way the car seat is designed to move in a crash) interferes with the distribution of crash forces which means that instead of the force of the crash being absorbed correctly by the car seat it could be redirected through your child!
Still want “Extra” safety?
Make sure your are using the top tether with your forward facing car seat. It is the most commonly overlooked install step and the easiest one-time safety step too.
So Which One Should I Use?
When rear facing, most child restraints can be installed with Lower Anchors. Keep in mind most cars do not have lower anchor capability in the center position. In that case a seat belt install is just as safe! Lower anchors were designed with convenience in mind. When you are installing your child’s forward facing car seat you should always choose to use the seat belt and top tether. Lower Anchor limits are only for use up to 65 lbs or in cars before 2008 are 55lbs (these limits include the weight of the car seat). Because children grow so quickly, using the seat belt to secure the car eat eliminates the possibility of your child being too heavy for LATCH!
Wait – So I Can’t Use LATCH Forever?
Yes – it is super important to remember that there is a weight limit when using the LATCH System. This simply means that as your child grows older, you will need to switch to using the seat belt system instead of the LATCH System. Your child’s car seat manual will tell you what that weight limit is. When it doubt consult with your local CPST!
Have you been asked to watch the little ones more and more frequently (like at the drop of a hat)?
You’ve begun to dread the sound of the phone ringing knowing your day – as you planned it – is probably out the window….
Babysitting little ones is full of joy – sticky fingers, belly laughs, and warm, sweet cuddles – but did you know that babysitting can actually help your brain function as well? Research published in a 2014 edition of Menopause, shows that grandmothers who help with childcare at least one day a week scored better on cognitive tests, leading researchers to project that spending time babysitting could potentially lower the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that grandparents who babysit live longer!
The catch? The study also found that too much babysitting can backfire. Grandmothers who babysat five or more times a week scored lower on the cognitive exams versus those who babysat just once a week.
Saying NO sometimes can be better for your health and for your relationships!
But how do you do it?
It’s time to set some boundaries!
Well laid boundaries set early on make it easier for all caregivers to feel comfortable in working together. With a little pre-planning and reasonable conversations (and expectations) working together will feel good for everyone.
- Decide (and discuss) schedules ahead of time
Want free Wednesdays? Need 24 hours notice? Pick a sunny spot, a piece of paper, and a calendar. Decide on the timing, the schedule, the frequency, and the notice that works for you. (Bonus Points: If you are up for it you can add that in an emergency you are happy to be flexible). Then pick a time to sit down with Mom and Dad and present your preferences. Knowing and discussing your needs ahead of time will help prevent surprises, misunderstandings and feelings of guilt (or resentment) when you have to say no.
- Location – location – location
Let’s face it today’s little ones are – well – busy. Decide where you plan to help and how involved you want to be in after school activities and driving. Some grandparents like attending everything. Some want the time to go for walks and hang around with the little ones. Letting Mom and Dad know ahead of time what your preferences are will help them plan their schedule around your needs which will help keep your resentment at bay if you did not want to attend Karate practice 3 times a week in the spirit of helping out.
They just have so much energy!! If only it could be harnessed – or if they could GIVE YOU some! Being clear with Mom and Dad how much time you can safely stay with the littles will help them arrange their schedule better while avoiding burnout or even worse – an accident due to tiredness.
Ask Mom and Dad to have a Plan B in case you are unable to help out. Knowing there is an alternate plan already in place will take a lot of the pressure off in case you need to say no.
The (New) Rules
A lot has changed since your little ones were – well – little. The guidelines about sleeping on their backs vs their stomachs, what to feed them and when and how to put them in the car seat can seem hard to keep up with. Asking Mom and Dad to sit down with you and run through the guidelines Before You Are Babysitting will be easier on you and safer for the little ones. If Mom and Dad have a tendency to throw instructions at you as they run out the door – you can gently remind them that in the future you will be saying “no” until they make the time to cover all the bases with you. Bonus: make sure that all safety gear is with you before mom and dad leave for the day (or night out). You don’t want to be stuck at home with no car seat!
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If you are like every other parent out there, you celebrate when you can finally switch from rear facing to forward facing. The downside? With the move there is a reduction in safety (more on this in an upcoming post) and another complicated car seat install.
We’ve all seen the hilarious YouTube videos of Moms and Dads trying to get their kids car seats installed. Its hard! There are so many parts – straps and buckles and latches and safety harnesses… The scary fact though is according to NHTSA, three out of four car seats are installed improperly. (NHTSA).
Let’s focus on the most overlooked car seat component; the top tether.
A survey conducted by IIHS in 2013 noted that only 56% of car seats used the top tether. “Using the top tether for a forward-facing seat is a must, whether you use the lower anchors or the seat belt,” says Prom. “It stops the seat from moving forward by 6 or 8 inches and decreases the risk of head injury,” explains Prom. (NHTSA).
So, what is the top tether?
The top tether is a strap that connects from a child’s car seat to an anchor in the car. It ensures that the car seat remains in the car should there be an accident. It also ensures that the child does not move more than one inch, in either direction.
The anchor where the tether connects in the car is not always easy to find. In minivans and SUV’s, it may be located on the floor, or the ceiling. In sedans, the anchor is usually located on the back shelf behind the back seat. Its not uncommon for parents to attach the tether to an incorrect anchor either. A cargo hook has often been confused for the tether anchor and is not safe.
If your car doesn’t have the top tethers anchors, – some older models don’t – your car dealer may be able to retrofit them for any car manufactured 1989 or after. If you’re having trouble locating the tether and/or anchor location, check your car’s owners manual.
Once your child’s forward facing car seat is tethered, if it is tethered correctly, it should not move any more than an inch from side to side.
Fun Fact: In a pinch your local CPST can check your car sear installation for you and also offer free trainings on installation because as a new parent, any complicated process that can be handed off to a trained professional is a no brainer – especially if its both safer and free!
Every parent knows car seats are an essential piece of hitting the road with the kids but what about all of the other places your kids are “in motion” – planes, trains, and, taxicabs are all tricky. You might sigh with relief with one less thing to worry about or you might wonder – how safe is this – really? So what’s the scoop? And when do you need – or demand – your kids be buckled in?
You aren’t required to use a car seat on an airplane. Children under two years old can snuggle on your lap for the duration of the flight. If you buy an extra seat, some airlines require they’re also in a car seat – though many family flyers we’ve spoken with stated it was never insisted on by the flight crew, just requested on the website.
Here’s the airline scoop, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents use FAA-approved restraints for any child on any flight. Turbulence could send little travelers flying, out of regular seats or from mom or dad’s arms.
Most standard car seats will fit on plane seats, but be sure to contact your airline to confirm widths and look into any other considerations. Some airlines, for example, won’t allow car seats in aisle or window seats, while others mandate how many rows away from an exit they need to be. Having this info upfront will help your family plan, especially if you’re traveling with multiple kids. The good news? Some airlines offered lower-cost tickets to kids under two, if you opt to purchase a seat for them.
Public buses don’t typically have seat belts or lower-latch anchors which means even if you lug a car seat onboard there’s no way to strap it in properly. While not ideal, most experts say your best bet is keeping babies and infants in a front-pack carrier such as a BabyBjorn, Ergo, wrap or other sturdy carrier.
Many long-distance buses also don’t have adult seat belts or latches – however, some do. Contact your bus company to confirm whether you’ll be able to strap a car seat in.
Most trains don’t have seat belts or restraints, making it impossible to secure a car seat. The good news? Because trains are big, solid, heavy, and traveling on their own tracks, the likelihood of being involved in a crash or other accidents are fairly slim. However, accidents happen, and it’s important to keep your kids as secure as possible – in other words, keep them out of aisles, bathrooms and areas between cars. A jolt or sudden stop could send them flying.
Like some airlines, Amtrak offers 50% discounts for young passengers, so be sure to investigate before booking your next trip. Families are also invited to board first, so it’s easy to find enough seats together for your crew.
This one boggles the minds of countless city parents. Why would a child need a car seat in a car, but not in a yellow cab – which, let’s face it, is just a regular old car? In most states car seats aren’t required in taxi cabs. This oversight seems unsafe and purely anchored in ease – in other words, it’s easier for parents to leave car seats at home and simply hop in a cab with their kids.
Some states, though, are moving to increase safety surrounding kids and cabs. California, for examples, mandates car seats for all kids until they’re six years old or weigh more than 60 pounds. That said, there’s no reason you can’t voluntarily bring a car seat into a taxi. While your regular car seat may be a little too cumbersome to lug around town, there are plenty of portable options on the market that can easily be popped into a stroller or, even, a diaper or handbag. Then, when you have to jump in a cab, you’ll have something at the ready to secure your child until you’re safely at home.
Think Summer is the Safest Driving Season? Think Again.
Winter can be dangerous for drivers. Think about it – icy roads, wind, snowy conditions and, of course, the days are shorter and the nights much longer. This cold weather pile-on can make driving a challenge for anyone — and if you have kids in the car, you have their safety to think of too. We’re here to help – that’s a big part of our job at Buckle Me Baby Coats.
Believe it or not, the warmer months can be some of the most dangerous for drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9 of the 10 deadliest days for youths on the road fall between May and August – when driving conditions are, surprisingly, the best.
So – what gives?
Why is Summer a Dangerous Driving Season?
While winter is an environmentally dangerous driving season, summer comes with its own special challenges. Not only are there more young drivers on the road – it’s summer vacation, after all – but families are spending more time on the road as well Between road trips, parties, and BBQs, there’s always somewhere you and your kids have to be. And because it’s lighter longer, there are more “safe” driving hours – which means more opportunities for accidents.
Take these added summertime precautions especially when you’ve got your kids in tow.
- Make sure kids are always in the backseat.
- Secure anything heavy or over sized in the trunk or in a cargo holder. If you slam on the brakes or swerve unexpectedly, items shift or, even fly into surrounding seats and injure passengers.
- Double-check your car seat installation. About three in four car seats are improperly installed double checking before you hit the road takes a second and can protect your kids all summer long.
- While you’re at it, check your kiddo’s car seat straps to ensure they’re secure, twist free, and tight enough.
How Tight Should the Straps be on an Infant Car Seat Anyway?
It’s a big question many parents have: how tight should straps on a child’s car seat be? Sometimes harnesses may seem a little too snug and as your kids get older, they might even say they’re too snug. So what’s safe and what’s not?
- Make sure the top of the straps are in the right place. Forward facing car seat harnesses should sit just above your child’s shoulders. Rear-facing seat’s harnesses should be just below the shoulders. Instructions can vary from car seat to car seat so always check your car seats manual to be sure.
- Check straps to ensure they aren’t pinched or twisted.
- Once the harness is pulled in place, make sure the clip is armpit level.
- Adjust the harness straps so they’re snug. If you can slip more than two fingers between the strap and your child’s collarbone, it’s too loose.
Follow these simple summer safety tips and you and your family will be ready to hit the road. Happy summer!
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