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Video: Stairs, Water & More – Preventing Child Accidents at Home

Katrina Phillips of the Child Accident Prevention Trust explains how to make your home childproof and prevent avoidable accidents.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

There are hazards all around the home. This video covers the following key accident risks and areas of the house:

  • Stairs – barriers are needed at the top and bottom of stairs to protect young children – and toys at the top of stairs can be a risk for all family members
  • Bathrooms
    • Don’t leave cleaners under the sink or by the side of the toilet or bath – even if they have “childproof” caps – many 3-year olds can open these containers
    • Scalding bath water is a major hazard – always make sure the water is the right temperature before filling the bath

Note: In the UK, generally hot and cold water run through separate taps – so the advice in the video is UK-specific. In North America, the usual advice for bath water is to get the water running to the right temperature before filling it for your child – and to reduce the temperature of your hot water heater to avoid accidental scalding.

  • Bedrooms
    • Little girl playing with household cleanersIf  your window can fully open, invest in window locks to prevent falls
    • Beware of window blind cords – young children can get wrapped in these and strangled
  • Kitchen
    • It’s important to keep pot handles and electric leads or cords away from edges of counters and small hands
    • Also ensure your cabinets have childproof locks – especially if they contain cleaners
  • Family Room or Lounge
    • Beware of hot cups of coffee or tea – Did you know a baby’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adult’s? – so hot liquid can do them much greater harm
  • Transportation Safety
    • Car seats are critical for kids – but ensure you have the correct seat for your child’s age and weight
    • Ensure your child always uses a helmet with a bike – even if just around your yard / driveway
    • Check out the video for more safe biking tips for your child – a healthy way to get around

A Question on Vehicle Booster Seats Answered

Several years ago I wrote a post on booster seats (I’m 9 Years Old – Do I Really Still Need a Booster Seat?) about how my then 9 year old son didn’t want to keep Portrait Of Girl Holding Booster Seat Standing Next To Carusing a booster seat in the car because none of his friends did anymore and he felt he was old enough to use the regular seat belt. The point of the article was that guidelines issued in 2011 recommended using a booster seat until a child reaches 4’9” tall (57 inches) and weighs between 80 and 100 pounds – generally in the range of 8-12 years of age. This continues to be one of our most read posts on the site and still gets occasional comments – which indicates the ongoing confusion and lack of clear laws and communication about what constitutes safe car travel for our older kids.

Recently one of our readers asked a very good question about my post – which warranted some extra research:

My car (Jeep Cherokee, older) has a bench seat in back, and the back of the seat is somewhat low. If my 8 year old son is not in a booster, his head and neck are against the seat and supported; in a booster, his shoulders, neck and head are above the seat back and completely unsupported. In a wreck, that booster would cause his neck to be snapped. I really hate that the law forces me to endanger him that way with the booster. Buying a new car isn’t an option, and I wish there were some sort of aftermarket option that was safe and crash-tested, which would allow the belt to fit him and keep him out of the booster. Suggestions?

To get an expert perspective on this issue, I turned to Stephanie Tombrello, LCSW, CPSTI, Executive Director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. According to Tombrello, “if a parent has a vehicle with a low-back vehicle seat, the immediate recommendation is a high back booster. There are many options in every price range and with a variety of backs.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a recommended list of “Good Bets” for booster seats in 2015, many of which are high back models. Additionally, “for some children, the Dorel (Safety 1st) Incognito booster for children 60-120 lbs. can be low enough to allow for fitting the belt properly while not placing the child high in the vehicle,” says Tombrello.

If none of these options suit, parents can consider an alternative to booster seats – the Safe Traffic System RIDESAFER Travel Vest – which Tombrello also recommended.  These vests, which are billed as the world’s first wearable child restraint system, reduce the load transferred to the child in a crash, thereby providing better safety. However, please note that these vests are limited to a weight of 80 pounds and height of 57 inches.

Virtually no US laws make it clear that children need booster seats until adult belts fit – and there’s little guidance to parents on how to determine fit. Tombrello cautions “that children must be able to pass the 5-Step Test before dispensing with a booster. The potential injuries to the bowel or stomach from the misplaced lap belt are significant.” See the box below for the steps to take to determine if and when your child can graduate to adult seat belts – and go to www.carseat.org for more information on protecting children and pregnant women in the car.

The 5-Step Test
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

New Florida Car Seat Law: Car Seats Up to 6TH Birthday!

booster seat required for Florida kidsEffective January 1, 2015, Florida drivers must follow an enhanced child restraint device (car seat) law, which will reduce tragic outcomes in vehicle accidents. The new law extends the requirement of a car seat or booster seat until a child’s 6th birthday. A car seat with a harness must still be used until their 4th birthday. Then, for children ages 4 and 5, a car seat or booster seat can be used but not a seat belt alone.

Parents with questions about the new law or any other car seat safety concerns can make an appointment with a certified technician trained in child passenger safety in their area. Technicians can teach parents how to install new seats, help assess the safety of current seats and provide information on choosing the correct seat for each child.  Though this new law provides additional protection for children until age 6, parents should know that using a booster seat is actually recommended until the height of 4’9” (between 8 and 12 years of age).  The booster seat allows the seat belt, which is intended for adult use, to fit correctly on the body of a child.  Similarly, although the law only requires a car seat with a harness until age 4, safety experts from AAA, the National Safety Council, and many other national injury prevention organizations recommend parents keep their child in a forward-facing seat with a harness until the maximum height and weight allowed for their seat. Given current models available, this can be as high as 65-80 pounds.

Although this law applies mainly to Florida, this could spread to other states as well and maybe even your state, so why not be ahead of the game and think about what the experts are recommending for our children and maybe keep them in that seat a little while longer.

Happy New Year!

Editor’s Note:  As stated in their February 21, 2012 press release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA “recommends that children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, which is typically when the child is somewhere between 8-12 years old and about 4 feet 9 inches tall.”  Click here to find your state’s laws on child passenger safety.

S.A.F.E.R Child Seat Covers

To clean most child car seats covers requires complete removal of the car seat from the vehicle. As a result, there are two groups of parents, those who are constantly taking their child’s car seat out of the car for cleaning and those who never remove it from its secure position in the vehicle.

My husband (an award winning pediatrician) and I used to fall in the first camp. Then we came up with a solution. The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover provides a washable cover that doesn’t require removal of the child seat from the car.

Here’s our story:

We spend a lot of time in our car. Whether it’s taking the kids to school, afternoon or weekend activities or the long drives to Womans arms holding car seat strapgrandma and grandpa’s house. All that driving often equals hungry and restless kids. The Cheerios® that used to pacify our kids at a younger age, soon turned into sticky apple slices, crumby granola bars, and drippy drinks. These snacks didn’t always make it into our kids’ mouths. More times than not, we’d find the leftovers in the child car seat. And after playground dates, our worn out kids mixed their dirty bottoms with this flavorful mess.

The only way to try and return their car seat to “like new condition” was to unfasten it from the vehicle, unhook the harness straps from the back of the seat, and then peel away the manufacturer’s car seat cover. Into the wash it went and if we were lucky, some of the stains disappeared. Then we’d reverse the process to put the seat back together. This process is not easy and takes plenty of time. When we’d go to put the child car seat back into our car, we could never quite get it right and would have to venture to our local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for a trained technician to properly resecure it.

Sitting and talking with other parents, we knew we weren’t alone. Our frustrations were echoed amongst our friends. Some told us stories of leaky diapers and potty training accidents. Others, had kids who easily became carsick and frequently vomited. We’ve all experienced runny noses and drool that finds their way onto sleeves and nearby surfaces.

Searching the shelves at our local baby and toddler store, we found all sorts of mess-preventing items, like sippy cups, bibs, and high chair mats, but we couldn’t find something that would protect our child’s car seat cover from the inevitable every day dirt and grime accumulation. How could we create a better way to clean our children’s car seat covers while keeping them safe?

We turned our frustrations into action. Once we put our children to bed, we turned “together time” into “brainstorm time”. We carefully looked at both outgrown and current seats and we tried to figure out how to remove a car seat cover without having to disassemble the seat. We put our ideas on paper. We drew car seats and cut out the paper models. We did the same thing with scrap fabric. We even cut apart the manufacturers car seat cover to fully explore some options. Our late nights led to creation of specially designed release elements for a child car seat cover…5 years and many prototypes later, the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover was born!

The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover – (Secure And Fast, Easily Removable) – allowed us to remove and wash an otherwise disgusting car seat cover without having to jeopardize the car seat’s secure position in our car. It took less than 1 minute to remove and put back the cover. Our kids could now sit in a clean seat and we could eliminate removing the entire seat from the car, and avoid additional trips to the DMV. And, since proper hygiene is the first line of defense in keeping your child well and safe from illness, we now had an easy way to ensure our car was as safe an environment as our home!

But there were other ways we wanted it to be “SAFER” too. During the manufacturing process, we made sure the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover underwent lab testing that included checking for absence of specific toxins and against flammability. The testing also included proper washability, ensuring that it will hold up to multiple washes in the washing machine. In the end, we came up with a cover that was <1/8 inch thick and slipped easily on top of an existing car seat cover.

Once we were comfortable with our solution we knew we wanted to market it so kids like yours could be S.A.F.E.R., too. We were granted two patents for our designs and received a “Gold Medal” at INPEX 2008- America’s largest invention trade show.. Most important of all we received numerous comments from parents like you that their child’s car seats were a mess and they hated cleaning them…the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover made all the difference.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Car Seat Safety

  • Always check that your child car seat is tightly secured in your vehicle by pushing and pulling it side to side. It should not move more than one inch in either direction. We encourage a child car seat to be installed at least initially by a certified child passenger safety technician. Locate one in your state here.
  • Shoulder harness straps for children in a forward facing car seat should always sit at or above the child’s shoulders. The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover has 3 levels of slots, designed to line up with a manufacturer’s original design.
  • Harness straps should be pulled tightly against your child and the chest clip should be at armpit level. Do not wear winter coats in a child car seat.

Keeping your child seat cover clean:

  • When washing a child seat cover, wash it in a mesh bag on a gentle cycle to minimize damage (the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover can be washed in the mesh “wash me” bag in which it was originally packaged).
  • Since the cover needs to maintain its shape to function properly, hang it to dry overnight – do not put it in a dryer. This will reduce the possibility of shrinkage.

************************************************************************************************************************** Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in 2011.  Now that another summer of road trips and family outings has passed, and it’s time once again to clean out the car (and discover what really happened to that gooey treat that went missing), we thought it might be a perfect opportunity to introduce the S.A.F.E.R. Child Seat Covers to you again.  Enjoy!

Emma’s Inspirations

When our daughter Emma was an infant, we moved into our new house. As parents of six children, we were very excited about getting to this new house and getting some much needed unloading done! Pulling into the driveway, we all became very excited and quickly left the car to see the house. There was so much to do – everyone went off in different directions.

I had assumed that my husband or one of the older kids had taken Emma from her car seat emmas dog and cat-small(as that was almost ALWAYS the case) and he thought that it was me who had brought her inside. Making the assumption that everything was okay, we went about unpacking and arranging our new home.

In a sudden moment of panic, I realized that our baby girl wasn’t even in the house. Nearly 45 minutes after we had arrived, I rushed to our car for Emma.

The sun was hot for a spring day. I cannot tell you the thoughts and fears, and the horror that welled up inside of me as I was sure I had harmed our baby girl! I thank God every day that my older son had opened the back window on the ride up because he felt car-sick, or Emma may not have become the vibrant six year old she is today!

From that point on we left notes in all the cars. “Where’s Emma?” was our catch phrase. We were determined to always check the seats and never let this happen to us again.

When my daughter and I read about the school principal who, out of routine, left her baby in a closed car all day, and the dad who forgot the baby was in his back seat because he didn’t ‘usually’ drop him off at child-care, we were sad and sickened by their tragedies… yet we knew how ‘routine’ oriented we all are today… and how easy it is for this tragedy to take place:

  • An average of 40 children die each year in closed vehicles… and numerous others have been left alone in closed cars by adults who assume the car is a ‘safe place’ for their children…
  • How many bus drivers do we read about who fail to “check the seats”!
  • What is typically not realized is how quickly the air inside our vehicles can become saunas for our precious little ones… with temperatures escalating 20 to 30, or even 40 degrees higher INSIDE the car than the air OUTSIDE the car! According to an article in New Science Magazine (July 5, 2005) , a study done out of Stanford University re-echoes these facts: cars become ovens, even while outside temperatures are on the ‘cool’ side!
  • Children’s bodies’ heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults, and a child can be critically injured or tragically dead within minutes!
  • In 2001, according to Kids N Carsthere were approx 20 child deaths due to hyperthermia.  In 2011, there were 33.  In 2010 there were over 49 (the highest number of fatalities in one year – ever)

My daughter and I remembered our ‘notes’. I thought of easy ways to leave a ‘note’ affixed to car windows, in key spots, to help remind us to “check the seats before we leave”. We decided to design decals to help save lives, as well as awaken our awareness of the dangers of vehicle suffocation for small children and pets! This is how we came up with Emma’s Inspirations.

I came up with the idea of static-cling decals to adhere (but not STICK with adhesive) to the car windows. I wanted to add a couple of ‘check’ marks to the decals with a stick figure boy and girl (some with a cat and dog added as well) and add a phrase that rhymed to increase the ease of remembering the dangers of suffocation for adults… and to educate children as well. I thought the phrase would help develop a new mindset for everyone… and help educate our children about automobile safety- the same way we educate them about outlet and toaster safety.

I thought 3 decals for each car was a good idea so I put them together in packages of 6 … enough for two cars. One could be placed just above the driver’s side window door-lock, another just below the rear-view mirror, (or the left corner of the windshield), and one for the back window corner. Some moms stick one on the kitchen window as well; to remind them to keep any cars outside LOCKED from little hands or hide and seek players! Others place one on or above their house alarm to remind them to check the seats.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post wrote a painfully candid article on this subject on Sunday, March 8, 2009. He recounts the tragedy of three families as they endure the heartache of recognition that their children died a horrifically “modern” death; they suffocated in seats their parents never took a second glance in! These are situations no family ever would have anticipated.

Emma’s window decals are that little reminder you need when things are moving at a fast pace. By sticking these decals in the right places you will have a simple and affordable reminder to check again. A reminder so simple …yet one that could save your child’s life!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Many parents are unaware of the dangers lurking around parked cars. According to the Kids N Cars national database, there are a number of injuries that can happen in a ‘MOMENT’ to children left unattended in or around motor vehicles. Here are just a few things to watch for:

  • A child can suffocate in unattended vehicles;
  • Children can get their heads and hands caught in power windows;
  • They can inadvertently shift the car into gear…or fall out windows and doors;
  • “Frontovers” and “Backovers” are responsible for approx 61% of non-traffic fatalities for children under the age of 15;
  • We must be of a mind to NEVER LEAVE OUR CHILDREN ALONE IN OR AROUND CARS.

The decals from Emma’s Inspirations are an accident prevention tool to remind us to DOUBLE CHECK our seats, REMOVE any passengers, and LOCK our EMPTY parked cars from curious little ones. Other areas where safety stickers can keep your children safe from harm:

  • ID stickers for child safety seats – if you were ever in an accident, it would provide key information about your child to caregivers that you may be unable to communicate. You can usually get these at your local pharmacy or stationery store…
  • You might want to place a decal or sticker on a house or apartment window or door to alert emergency personnel to the presence of children in the home.
  • Poison Control stickers should be placed on phones themselves or next to the phone and/or on an inside cabinet door.
  • Medical alert bracelets or anklets or stickers or decals on a child’s seat or diaper bag or person to warn of potentially life-threatening allergies.
  • Decals and stickers are good to remind ‘no metal’ in the microwave or toaster.
  • Stickers and decals are small, yet significant aids in helping us keep track of the never ending flow of “things to remember to mention” or ”do” or “watch out for”… as we manage the literal “ins” and “outs” of our days… and care for the people, who at the end of our day, we do it ALL for… our children!

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Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in November of 2009.  With the weather warming up and National Heat Awareness Day on Friday the 23rd, we wanted to take a moment to share it with you again as a reminder to Please Check the Seats Before You Lock!

NHTSA Proposes Side-Impact Crash Testing for Car Seats

Napping in the back seatOn January 22nd, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) filed for proposed changes to the federal motor vehicle safety standards for child-restraint systems. For the first time, the changes would require side-impact crash testing on all car seats sold in the US for children weighing up to 40lbs.

Until now, federal rules have only covered how well car seats protect children in crashes from the front. But, as seen in a NY Times discussion of the proposed changes, “according to Matthew R. Maltese, head of biomechanics research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, side-impact crashes can hurt children in a variety of ways. While the door can intrude and strike a child in a car seat, the sheer impact of a collision can cause a child’s head to move suddenly and hit the seat or a part of the vehicle’s interior.” Now, for the first time, we are taking positive steps to prevent this.

According to the NHTSA press release, “car seats would be tested in a specially designed sled test that simulates a “T-bone” crash, where the front of a vehicle traveling 30mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15mph.” Also new to this test: a recently developed side-impact crash test dummy that represents a 3-year old child will be used in addition to the existing 12 month-old child dummy.

The goal of the proposed test will be for car seats to demonstrate that they can safely protect a child from harmful head contact with a crushed vehicle door as well as reduce the overall impact of the crash forces on a child’s head and chest. NHTSA estimates that making this change would save 5 lives and prevent 64 injuries annually.

If the proposal is adopted, there would be a 3-year time-frame after final rule publication for car-seat manufacturers to alter or adjust their products to meet the new requirements. And then it will likely be up to consumers to purchase a new car seat to replace their existing one. For now, NHTSA has posted its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (in .pdf form) which provides 90 days for members of the general public to comment.

On a final note – my personal belief is that this is way overdue – and with 5 lives and 64 injuries experienced by children annually, a 3-year time-frame to meet the new requirements is 3-years too long. One preventable death is by far one too many.  Would love to hear your thoughts…

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