I know, I know... rolling your eyes at me again. Many of you who are close to me know how anal and paranoid I am about car seats.... about the installation, the use, etc etc.... Well, lately this is something that has been on my mind a lot and I thought it might make a great TFT post...
I'd like to discuss car seats... no particular brand, but HOW you are using them. First, let me outline the types of seats. There are a few "levels" of car seats, and how they should be used and what the weight limits are....
- The Infant seat... for use rear facing only up to 20lbs (some higher).
- The "convertible" seat.... can be used rear facing for anywhere from 5-35ish lbs and then forward facing from 22-40+lbs with the 5-point harness (some, like the Marathon and Safe Voyage go up to 55-65lbs).
- The forward facing only (harnessed) seat... These are for 22-40+lb children forward facing only. Some harnesses go up to 65lbs. After that, some seats can be used without the harness as a adult-belt buckling booster.
- The 'designated' belt buckling booster seat. These are marketed for children 4yrs AND 40lbs and all the way up to 10+years old.
Now, I've tried very hard to be well informed on what is safest as far as car seat use. Here are some things I've found via research..
- It *IS* safest to keep your child rear facing until they reach the weight and height limit on the carseat (which is often 34 inches ad 30/35lbs). Watch this crash test video if you don't believe that statement. Now, Porter has been forward facing since he was about 14mos old. He's not an easy rider in the car rear facing. I recently tried RF'ing him again, but again, he's not an easy rider. He fusses. I can't hand toys back to him. Anyhow, this decision is one I've really struggled with lately as I feel that RF'ing is so much safer.
- Children should stay in a 5-point Harness seat for as long as possible. *MOST* convertible seats the harness can only be used up to 40lbs, which many kids I know are close to 5yrs old and not quite 40lbs. However, there are seats out there that have higher harness weights if its needed... the Graco Nautilus (65lbs) the Apex (65lbs), the FP Safe Voyage (55lbs), the Radian (65lbs), the Marathon (65lbs), the Regent (80lbs!!), Evenflo Triumph Advance (50lbs). Having a seat with a higher harness weight would allow you to keep your child in a harness past 4 or 5 years old. Many, many people choose to do this for safety reasons. IMO, if they still fit in the seat, keep them in the harness.
- Booster seats should be used until kids are at least 4'9, 8 years or 80lbs. (I'm not 100% certain on all the laws for this... all states are different... we're not at the booster stage and NO WHERE near it. I'll do more research once Porter is older.
- The Mighty Tite is not a safety feature that should be used. I literally worshiped my Mighty Tite until a few weeks ago. I found out that most car seat manufactures forbid the use of the MT with their seats. The Might Tite damages seat belts by over stretching the elasticity and I've heard of incidences where the seatbelt has actually snapped in two during an accident because of this overstretching. I have since visited the Heath Department to have a certified technician inspect my install to make sure that I had the seat in correctly without the MT.
- Did you know that car seats have an expiration date of 6 years? And, that date is from the date of manufacture, NOT the date that you purchased it. The seat Porter has now I purchased online last fall (2006). The Manufacture date was April 2005. Its a luck of the draw when you buy a seat... you never know how long its been sitting there on the shelf. So, that seat has just 3.5 years left to use. You can usually find the manufacture date on the side or back sticker of your car seat, or possibly in the pamphlet it came with.
- Weight is not the only factor to take into consideration when choosing a seat. You must also watch your childs height and make sure the harness is always in slots that are ABOVE their shoulders, never below. Oops... Denise added that rear-facing seats the slots should be at or just below the shoulder. I didn't know that! See, you learn something new every day.
Anyhow... in this TFT I'd like to focus on the use of 5-point harnesses. So many people I know have put their children in belt-buckling boosters at ages as young as 3, and I actually think one friend has her 2.5 year old in just a belt buckling seat with no harness. EEEK! They could STILL be in a 5 point harness even up to 5 or 6 years old, yet they are now riding in booster seats. Last weekend my sister in law and I were discussing this topic and while my oldest niece is 4.5 and by "safety standards" she is old enough to be in a booster she still isn't at the 40lbs weight limit. Lori had been thinking of putting her in a booster for convenience of transporting 3 kids under the age of 4, and after our discussion I hope I was able to give her more insight on why a 5-point harness is so much safer for kids.
Let me share this video and story with you. It breaks my heart. Belle (almost 4) was in an accident with her mom and sister (7). No one was hurt in the accident, except Belle. She was in a booster just a few feet away from her sister (in a booster also), but because Belle was too small she suffered internal injuries from the adult seatbelt and died that same day.
You can read her story, about the accident etc. on her Legacy page.
I hope that by sharing that story and by any information in this post it will help someone make a more informed decision on what type of child restraint is best for their childs' weight/height.
So, my thoughts today... how do YOU make sure your children are safe in the car? What do you plan to do to make sure your child is as safe as possible? What are your thoughts on the 5-point harness longer than 4 years/40lbs, and further... on kids riding in belt buckling boosters up until 4'9"?
I also thought I'd share a few helpful websites I've come across..
Car-Seat.org: The message board here is VERY helpful. Just a warning, they will suggest rear-facing your child if they are within weight/height, but they aren't rude about it. They were so helpful when I was having issues trying to get my seat in tight without the Mighty Tite. They are also very helpful in suggesting car seats to work with your car and childs weight/height etc. VERY knowledgable.
Crumbs in my Couch: This is a blog of one of the CPS (Child Passenger Safety) certified technicians.
Informed for Life: Vehicle crash test and fatality data. The crash test data only begins on vehicles made in 2003 and newer, though..
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