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My son came into my bathroom this morning as I was brushing my teeth. He climbed up on the scale because two inches makes a big difference in your ability to see the mirror when you’re three. This was my brand new digital, checked it against the others at the store and the gym to see if it’s accurate, scale. I watched as the numbers flashed.
Thirty three?! point two?! He was only 27 lbs at his check-up in December. I knew he’d been gaining weight quickly, but he was only 30.5 lbs last week. This was barely after breakfast. It wasn’t at the end of the day with a full belly and fully clothed like they tell you to weigh your child to determine if he’s outgrown his carseat. He rides rear facing in a Britax Marathon with a 33 lb rf limit.
I looked down again. 33.2. This could not be happening. I’m not ready to turn him forward facing.
I quickly started considering my options. His Scenera has a 35 lb rf limit, but he’s outgrown it by height. The new Marathons rear face to 35 lbs. They really aren’t any different than the one I have, right? Right?! No good? Okay, new seat. If he’s too tall for the Scenera, the Uptown is probably out. I need something taller. Compass True Fit? A Recaro Convertible? Has anyone actually seen a 35 lb Radian and will it even fit in my car? Oh, the Evenflo Triumph Advance! I wouldn’t even have to order that one. Now how am I going to convince my husband that this is necessary?
Just as I started to formulate my plan, he looked up at me and asked, “Mom? are you ready to go to the library yet?” It was then that I realized that he was already wearing his backpack full of books. Three pounds of books, to be exact.
As the feeling of relief washed over me, I felt myself doing a reality check. Even if he had been 33.2 lbs, it wasn’t the end of the world- or even reason to buy a new seat for those next 2 lbs. Yes, rear face to the limits of the seat, but that doesn’t mean buy a new seat each time a limit is reached or something new hits the market. At age three and a half, we’d far exceeded the minimums of 1 year and 20 lbs. I know that rear facing is safer. We’d all be safer that way, but forward facing at his age isn’t necessarily unsafe. I gave him 2.5 years of increased protection. I armed myself with good information and did the best I could with what I had available. As parents, that’s all we can do.
If I had never come across car-seat.org, where would I be now? I’ve been a member of the car-seat.org forums for near on a now and the sheer amount of information I’ve received over that time has been invaluable!
I live in New Zealand, a fair while away from the U.S.A and information on CPS here is just IMPOSSIBLE to find, lacking in consistency and not very expansive. Had I not come across car-seat.org there is so much that I wouldn’t have learnt. Everything I learn, I pass on to others in my country via a CPS website I run for other parents here. With this website, I have reached thousands of parents not only in New Zealand but around the world!
Seeing all the information, knowledge and experience that the Child Passenger Safety Technicians and Instructors passed on to people who were in desperate need of information had me in “awe” of all they seemed to know and I really did and still do, look up to the CPST. They inspired me so much so, that I flew 9hours, 4390 miles all the way to Hawaii just to sit the CPS course! It wasn’t cheap (oh BOY wasn’t it!) but it was definitely well worth it and I don’t regret making the sacrifice to come and sit the CPS course. I am now (so far as I know), the only US certified CPST with a current certification in the whole of Australasia (Australia, New Zealand etc).
And what do you know, lady luck was with me as I had to have had what is quite possibly one of the best and most well respected Child Passenger Safety Instructors, Charles Hirata. Chuck was great! Generous, talkative, informative and a great teacher, he made the learning experience easy and enjoyable and is incredibly experienced. He is an asset to not only Maui, where he lives, not only Hawaii, not only to the U.S.A but now his teaching has reached as far as New Zealand.
Thank God for car-seat.org, where would I be without you guys! I thought I would take the time to write this “blog” to let you all know you’re doing a good job!
So, it seems I’m the only one who likes to write, lol. That’s OK. Guess I’ve just got a lot of hot air to share :D.
There was a post on car-seat.org regarding headrests and car seats. It’s a frequent problem that headrests stick forward and interfere with the installation of some forward-facing car seats. These headrests are safe for people because they are closer to heads and reduce injury rates for whiplash and other neck injuries, but they push car seats forward making it so they don’t sit flush against the vehicle seat. A common practice has been to take the headrest out, flip it around backwards, and reinsert the headrest into position. Since the headrest is flat on the back, the car seat then sits flat against the vehicle seat. It also allows the headrest to stay in the vehicle so that if the car seat or booster needs to be removed for an adult passenger, that person has head support. Otherwise, best practice would be to just remove the headrest.
Sounds great, right? The perfect solution. Maybe not. Most headrests have notches on one side only to allow the headrest to be adjusted and to keep it in place during a crash. If the headrest is flipped around, the notches no longer line up and the headrest is held in place by friction only. Will it hold in a crash? Perhaps. In a rollover? Who knows? Should I be concerned about a headrest held so strongly by friction that it barely moves in a rollover when there are backpacks, groceries, baseball bats/gloves, and cell phones and assorted cell phone accessories flying around as well? I don’t know. I guess I pick my evils.
Let’s have a conversation about crash forces. The basic force formula is weight x speed = force. So, if the headrest weighs 1.5 lbs. and I’m in a 35 mph crash, which is a pretty average residential speed where I live, that headrest would hit me with a force of 52.5 lbs. That would hurt a bit, especially if the posts came at me first ;). What’s my point? Hit yourself with a 52 lb. weight and you’ll see what my point is. You’ll end up with a hole in your skull.
So, how should we counsel parents/caregivers now? Should we continue to tell them to flip the headrests backwards so that the car seats fit better? Should we tell them to take the headrests out altogether and possibly have the parents forget to put them back in the vehicle for an adult passenger? Many SUVs and vans simply don’t have storage space for headrests if they’re removed and let’s face it, not everyone is as concerned with headrest safety as those of us in our field are (just drive around and look at how many people are at risk for whiplash because their headrests are adjusted too low). It’s ultimately up to the parents and caregivers what they do with their headrests, but I think we need to look into this more since it is becoming a major installation problem.
I’ve been noticing over the past, oh, year or so that a lot of online advocates have been telling parents to measure their kids’ torsos to get an idea of which seats would be appropriate for them. “Sit ’em up against a wall and measure from the floor to their shoulders.” This is a relatively new way of thinking in this field. We’ve always been concerned about harness slot height and have always recommended that parents look at car seats with high top harness slots, among other features.
I’ll admit I’ve been a bit skeptical about the accuracy of this method of measurement. After all, how a child measures against a wall is really quite different vs. how a child measures when they’re sitting in a car seat because the car seat can take on different angles in a vehicle depending on the angle of the vehicle seat and the angle at which the car seat is installed.
I measured my 42″ 4.5 yr old dd today to see how accurate it really is. She measured 14.75″ from floor to shoulder. I sat her in a Touriva in the house and she still had about .5″ to go before reaching the middle of the top harness slots (the Touriva has 15″ top harness slots). Yep, she’s got mom’s short torso and will have fun shopping for jeans that fit later in life :).
So, I guess the method does work, assuming we’re giving out good measurements on seats.