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Overweight Children are NOT Adequately Protected in Car Seats

For the past ten years, the news media has consistently focused our attention on the fact that obesity is on the rise; that it has become a major problem in the United States, and that childhood obesity, in particular, has put young children at-risk for a multitude of health-related issues.

One surprising health-related issue stems from the fact that many infants and toddlers are being transported in car seats that are not safe for them to be riding in, and I am not referring to the improper installation of those seats. The problem I AM referring to is the fact that when car seats are crash-tested, the crash-dummies that are used to simulate the effects of an accident impact do not reflect the overweight child population being transported.

With so many young obese children today, common sense should dictate that the crash-dummy’s weight and dimensions more closely match that of the children using the car seats being tested.

In an article on the ThirdAge.Com website, March 29, 2011, under Boomer Health and Lifestyle, Katherine Rausch highlights a problem that although acknowledged for some time, has been awaiting a solution since 2004, but researchers have not come up with a product. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is using smaller adult version dummies for child crash-testing. Why? According to a recent article in the Washington Post, it’s because crash test dummies are expensive to develop and funding is not readily available to develop larger “life-like” child test dummies. This leaves child safety seat manufacturers self-regulating their own products. It also means that seats made just a few years ago to hold 65lb children are now marketed for those up to 85lbs.

It appears that heavier-weight crash-dummies have been in development for adults for decades now. Why haven’t overweight children been given the same attention?

With so many recent news reports about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and NHTSA’s “new safety seat guidelines”, are we deluding ourselves into thinking our kids are safe?

JUST RELEASED: New Child Seat Safety Guidelines!

This morning, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new recommendations for child seats.

The new guidelines advise parents to…

  • Keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they reach two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.
  • Most children will need to remain in a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old. The booster seat’s shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly.
  • Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they reach 13 years old

According to Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP policy statement, the new guidelines are based on the latest scientific and medical research which indicate that: “A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body…For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.

Why change now?

According to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, “while all car seats sold in the U.S. must meet federal child restraint safety standards, selecting the right seat was a challenge for many parents”. The “room for interpretation” in the 2002 guidelines plus the huge variety of car safety seats on the market often left parents with more questions than answers. The result: children were transitioning from one stage of car safety seat to the next, far too early to be truly considered “safe”.

New research findings, however are clear. Children under age 2 are safer in rear-facing car seats. Children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. The hope of both NHTSA and the AAP is that issuing these new requirements will simplify the selection process and make it easier for parents to choose the “best” car seat for their child.

For more information:

  • For guidance from the AAP to help parents choose the most appropriate car safety seat for their child, click here
  • For a detailed list of car safety seats, including the height and weight limitations for each, click here
  • For state-specific child passenger safety laws, click here
  • For a copy of the NHTSA “Car Seat Recommendations for Children” poster (above), click here

S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover

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 grandma 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.

Help Save Lives with National Seat Check Saturday

Did You Know???

  • An estimated 8,959 lives were saved by child restraints from 1975 to 2008.
  • Still…each year, thousands of children are tragically injured and killed in automobile accidents.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 and older. Why???
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that nearly 3 out of 4 car seats are not used correctly. And most of these parents have no idea…

NHTSA is aiming to change that with National Seat Check Saturday on September 25. As part of Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-25), communities nationwide will have certified technicians available to provide hands-on child safety seat inspections and advice – for free! Click here to find nearby car seat inspection stations on National Seat Check Saturday and throughout the year. Other resources available to you:

  • A poster for you to place on your blog to help spreadNational Seat Check Saturday the word about Child Passenger Safety Week and National Seat Check Saturday to other parents and caregivers
  • A site where you can easily find instructional videos, handy informational flyers, and links to product ratings and recall lists …and FINALLY
  • The Child Passenger Safety Twitter account (@childseatsafety) will be hosting a Twitter party on Wednesday, September 22 at 2 p.m. EST. NHTSA experts will be available to offer information and insight on car seats and how to travel safely with children. Just use the hashtag #CPSweek to follow along and ask your questions.

For more information on Child Passenger Safety Week and to find your local car seat inspection station visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS or http://www.facebook.com/childpassengersafety.

Thanks for helping us save lives!!

New Booster Seat Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released their newest rankings of child booster seats. If you have (or soon will have) a child within this Seat belt fitcategory (approximately ages 4 to 8 ) this information is invaluable. The IIHS has tested 72 different seats and provided their safety rating for each one. As a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle this allows you to make, safe informed decisions and eliminates the guesswork and the ‘I hope so’ fear that you made the right decision for your child.

The following is how the IIHS suggests that booster seats fit and help protect children:

Boosters elevate children so safety belts designed for adults will fit better. The lap belt should fit flat across a child’s upper thighs, not the soft abdomen. Good boosters have belt-routing features that hold lap belts down and forward. The shoulder belt should cross snugly over the middle of the shoulder. Then it’s in position to provide effective protection in a crash.

Here is a partial list of their “Best Bets.”

BEST BETS

  • Britax Frontier 85 (combination highback)
  • Chicco Keyfit Strada (dual highback)
  • Clek Oobr (dual highback)
  • Cosco Juvenile Pronto (dual highback)
  • Cybex Solution X-Fix (highback)
  • Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (dual highback)
  • Evenflo Big Kid Amp (backless)
  • Evenflo Maestro (combination highback)
  • Graco TurboBooster Crawford (dual highback)

Click here for a complete list and for more information.

An Important Story – Must See for Parents

Napping in the back seatOn yesterday morning’s edition of the “Today Show” there was a very important and very well done piece on the devastation caused when children are left, even inadvertently in a hot car. Also featured are many inexpensive solutions. It also begs the age-old question; why are such devices not regulated and required.

Please click here to watch.

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