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What You Need to Know About the New AAP Child Seat Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics has dropped the age milestone that children should remain rear-facing until age 2, and replaced it with the new recommendation that children should remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.

The past decade has seen an incredible dramatic evolution in improvements to child passenger safety. Never-the-less, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older.

baby in rear facing car seatAccording to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, “Car seats are awesome at protecting children in a crash, and they are the reason deaths and injuries to children in motor vehicles have decreased”. However, according to the AAP, what many parents don’t realize is that each transition – from rear-facing to forward-facing, from forward-facing to booster seat, and from booster seat to seat belt alone – reduces the protection to the child.

Using the right car safety seat or booster seat, says Dr Hoffman, lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70 percent.

When a child rides rear-facing, the head, neck, and spine are all supported by the hard shell of the car safety seat, allowing the car seat to absorb most of the crash forces, and protecting the most vulnerable parts of the body. When children ride forward-facing, their bodies are restrained by the harness straps, but their heads – which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy – are thrown forward, possibly resulting in spine and head injuries.

According to Dr. Hoffman: “if you have a choice, keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible is the best way to keep them safe.”

Here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending:

  1. Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.
  2. Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats through at least 4 years of age. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
  3. When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.
  4. When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  5. All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

One of the most important things a parent or caregiver should do is to read the manufacturer’s manual and labels for that particular car seat to find the correct weight and height limits. When a child is approaching one of those limits, it is time to think about transitioning to the next stage.

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School Bus Stop Arms Are Being Ignored: How to Fix That

school bus stop sign armWithin the next several weeks most or all schools across the country will be back in session. Some already are. Last year, as in previous years, many of the headlines were about school shootings. These are tragedies by every definition. However these are well covered in the media as are many steps to prevent future occurrences. There have also been recent headlines about tragic school bus crashes and this is perhaps the subject of a different article. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that by design and other factors, school buses are the safest transportation method to get children to and from school. Most injuries and fatalities happen off the bus.

In this piece I want to instead focus on a different school hazard and that is the act of driving past school bus stop arms. We will not likely hear much about this in the media until a group of students is run down.

Once a year the state of Kansas conducts a survey asking bus companies/drivers to participate.

  • For 30 days they ask the drivers to record and report the number of times other drivers pass an extended stop arm sign.
  • In the most recent survey (2017) nearly 10,000 occurrences of stop arm violations were reported.
  • Simply multiply this number by 50 states and there could be as many as 500,000 stop arm violations each and every month school is in session.

The laws may vary by state, whether the road is divided and if so how many lanes etc. Confusing laws is no excuse for violating laws- for putting children’s lives in jeopardy. In one study up to 2% of all violations are on the passenger side- the side where the door is when students are being off loaded. The side where the curb is; where students gather to wait for the bus. This is not allowed in any state for any reason. Think about it 2% of 500,000 is 10,000. The number and the potential is staggering. This risk is real. A child hit by a vehicle going often 25 plus MPH has little chance of a good outcome- perhaps little chance of surviving.

What can be done.

Know the laws and obey them. Talk about stop arm safety at back to school orientations and PTA meetings. Get your local police involved. Have them wait at known high hazard bus stops. Contact local TV and radio stations ask them to run public service announcements (PSA’s). There has been considerable media in the past – there is chilling video. This is a story with a real human interest. Consider stop arm cameras. These specialized cameras make it easier to prosecute violators. A few states don’t require stop arms on school buses- ask your legislators to reconsider.

What you should not do.

Don’t wait until tragedy strikes your area- a car strikes a child- a child is crippled or killed. Don’t regret that perhaps being proactive could have prevented the loss. Don’t assume someone else in your community is taking care of this. The more people involved- the higher the success.

Like this article- share this article- spread the word.

Personal WaterCraft & Kids: How to Make Them Fun AND Safe!

Watercraft familySummer is fast approaching and that means that thousands of children will be hitting the water looking to go fast! Summer is the time to think about the beach and being outside and speeding around oceans, lakes or canals in PWC or personal watercrafts. PWC have steadily risen in ownership in the U.S to well over a million and with that increase in ownership come’s an increase in operators and injuries to the tune of over 12,000 documented injuries annually. Most injuries seem to occur when PWC collide—either with other vessels including other PWC or with fixed objects such as docks or tree stumps. Behavioral factors cited in 3 studies include operator inexperience (most operators had <20 hours of experience in boat operation), operator inattention, and excess speed or reckless operation. Some PWC can seat as many as 3 people and hit speeds of 60 mph. PWC are the only recreational boats for which the leading cause of death is not drowning; most fatalities result from blunt trauma.

The answer to the question of how to keep our children safe on the water seems to be the same as it has been for quite some time. Education and hands on practice. We need to educate our children and ourselves on water safety, both in and out of the water and both for operating and riding on a PWC. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association has the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. No one younger than 16 years should operate PWC.
  2. The operator and every passenger must wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.
  3. Alcohol or other drug use should be avoided before and while operating PWC.
  4. Participation in a safe boater course with specific information about PWC should be required before operating PWC.
  5. Safe operating practices, such as no operation between sunset and sunrise, no wake jumping, and observing posted speed limits or no-wake zones, should be followed. (No-wake zone means the craft speed is slow enough that no wake is formed behind the craft as it crosses a specific area.)
  6. PWC should not be operated where swimmers are in the water.
  7. If a PWC is being used to tow another person on skis, knee boards, tubes, or other devices, a second person must face the rear to monitor the person being towed.
  8. All persons who rent PWC should be required to comply with these recommendations.
  9. Protective equipment such as wet suits, gloves, boots, eyewear, and helmets may be appropriate to wear.

When it comes to PWC, owning and operating a PWC is the same as owning and operating a car and should be treated with the same amount of respect. Would you hand over your car keys to your child who has little to no driver training? Of course not and the same should hold true when it comes to any PWC. The numbers don’t lie. Everyone needs PWC drivers Ed. Putting in the time before hand will save a lot of pain and suffering during what should be the most fun time of the year for kids.

Thank you and be safe

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Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on Pediatric Safety in April 2013. We thought now might be a good time to revisit it.

How Can a Sock Monkey Make Commuting with Your Kid Safer?

Rarely do you find yourself getting excited while driving your kid to school. But, much to my teen’s chagrin, that’s just what happened one morning last week.

It’s all because my son was awake and observant that morning. As I was navigating a busy round-about near our neighborhood – he cried out, “What the heck?? Some crazy person has a life-size sock monkey in their front passenger seat!”

Now this intrigued me, but I didn’t manage to see the car since I was trying to keep us safe in traffic. So I asked him for more details, like who was driving. “It was a woman,” he said…..and then the all important clue: “And she had a little kid in a car seat in the back….what a weirdo!”

Now I am both a newly minted public health professional (MPH received last year!) and a child health and safety geek (seven years as Senior Editor at Pediatric Safety will do that to you!), so I immediately had a flash of insight. “Oh,” I said, “I know what she’s doing!!” “Oh that’s so cool!” I was practically bouncing up and down in my seat. Thankfully I had already merged into traffic on the local parkway.

“She’s taking her kid to daycare on her way to work, and the sock monkey is next to her to remind her that the child is in the back seat. When they aren’t using the car seat, the sock monkey sits in it – and when they put the little girl in the car seat, they move the sock monkey doll up front as a visual cue.”

The reason I was SO excited is this was an example of child safety in action. Forgetting a baby or young child in the back seat can happen to any parent when we are on autopilot, trying to get all the morning tasks done and get to work. And even a short time alone in a hot car can be fatal, since children’s bodies heat up faster than those of adults. More details on heatstroke and kids can be found at the links below:

Given the risks of heatstroke, government experts and child advocates recommend memory helpers, like keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat and moving it up front when the child is strapped in (see the links above). Experts also advise parents to keep something critical for their day in the back near their child – like a purse, briefcase or mobile phone.

Now you might think that you don’t need to take measures like this….but research shows that the easiest way to adopt a new habit or remember something is to set up your environment to help you – like ridding your house of fattening foods, keeping your gym clothes handy and visible….or putting a life-sized stuffed animal next to you in the car when your child is in back.

I don’t know who the woman was on the road that morning, but I commend her effort to ensure her child’s safety – and she really made a child safety geek’s day! Oh, and if you’d like to buy a life-size sock monkey, they have them on Amazon.

 

How To Avoid Accidentally Locking Your Kids In The Car

Mornings can be hectic with little kids, right? There are breakfasts to be made, lunches to be prepared, and kids to be dressed, not including preparing yourself for your workday too. When all that is taken care of, you still have to get the kids into the car, along with whatever you need to take along for work that day.

little boy with car keys opening car doorAnd don’t forget the squabbling over rain coats, bickering over seating arrangements (but Mommy, I want to sit in his car seat today!) and then navigating the frustrations of rush hour traffic on the way to begin your day.

And there is the big chance that you forgot something very important.

It is very easy to be a distracted parent. There are so many curve-balls be tossed your way at once it can be hard to make heads and tails of the situation. Perhaps the biggest fear parents have in their morning routine is if they left something important at home. Did I grab enough diapers? Where’s the wallet? Do I have my phone? My keys? Did I make sure to turn off the stove?

And then there’s the remote possibility of accidentally locking your kids in the car.

Believe it or not, this kind of mental blunder is not uncommon to even the best parents. Most parents assume this would never happen to them… until it does. Many times local locksmiths are called in to help open the doors of a car and liberate the tots inside.

The following are a few tips that parents have learned the hard way that can help you remember not to lock your kids inside a car:

No. 1 — ANY TIME you leave your vehicle, make sure you ALWAYS have your kids with you

While this may seem obvious, what this means is if you need to hop out to grab something really quick from the supermarket, take the kiddos with you! If your one-year old that has trouble sleeping has fallen asleep in the backseat, and you desperately need diapers, you have a choice to make – and neither option includes leaving him in the back seat. In many states this is required by law, especially in those states where the temperatures can get pretty high (such as Florida). By making this a habit, you will avoid leaving them in the car, and locking them in the car by accident.

No. 2 — Don’t leave your Keys where the kiddos can get them

Even if you are in the comfort of your home. The auto lock feature on the key fob makes it easy for even a small child to secure the vehicle with themselves inside. Spare keys are a must, and please don’t make the mistake of putting the spare key on the same ring with your primary key. Finding a competent locksmith to create a spare is far easier than having this job done at the dealers.

No. 3 — Pre-arranged Communications with your child’s caregiver

Make sure you are in constant communication with your child’s caregiver and that they will call you if your child does not show up at day care. Parents have been in such a flurry, they have left their child in the backseat of the car as they head to work. These are the absolute worst lock-ins as they can be potentially fatal. There are “reminder” smartphone apps that require check-ins – if your child does not arrive at the caregiver’s location, a pre-programmed alert will be sent.

No. 4 — Check the Seat

Yes, a simple routine whenever you enter or exit your car should become second nature to a concerned parent. The same way you can check to make sure your keys, cellphone and wallet/purse are in your possession, you can flip your head to the backseat and make sure your little one is where he should be, Place a sign on the dashboard if it will help you remember.

No. 5— Have a Locksmith on Speed Dial

Despite taking every precaution accidents can and do happen, so have a plan in place for the “just in case” scenario, keeping in mind that the harshness of the situation will ultimately determine your response. If it is at the height of the heat of the day, 80 degrees and climbing and your child is in the car, you will want immediate action. Call the police, ambulance, and attempt to break a window for entry into the car.

If it is cool outside, and your child hasn’t been in the car for long, you may want a less drastic option, such as calling your local locksmith. Locksmiths are typically on-call 24/7 and will have no problem showing up onsite to spring your tiny tot from their imprisonment. If you need help finding one near you, and you are in the U.S., you can use this site for help in finding a local one near you.

In Conclusionyou must always be vigilant when it comes to car safety and your child. Parents tend to spend a lot of time researching the perfect car seat for their child in the event of a car accident, God forbid. However, they don’t really think that they’ll ever accidentally leave their child in the car. They don’t think they’ll ever be that sort of parent who could be so neglectful.

The truth is that it so easy to make the mistake of accidentally locking your child in the car. With the off chance of that happening, parents must remain vigilant and create a plan to prevent this situation ever happening. Take these tips to heart.

The WarmMe: The Safe Car Seat Winter Coat Alternative

Just over four and a half years ago (Winter 2012), I found myself as a first time mom of a beautiful 6 month old baby girl and I had a problem. We had moved my daughter out of her infant car seat and into a convertible car seat, she was just too heavy to carry around in the infant seat. The problem was it was winter and I didn’t know how to keep her warm while also keeping her safe in her new seat. I had read many articles and seen many graphics online about the dangers of using a winter coat under the straps of car seat harness.

A winter coat is too bulky to safely and securely use under a car seat harness. We did the quick test suggested in multiple articles, put the child in their coat and secure the harness straps, tightening them until they feel snug, then take the child out of the seat and remove their coat, put them back in and buckle the straps. We were shocked by the results, we were certain the straps had been tight when the coat was one, but once the coat was removed there was so much slack in the straps! In the case of a car accident, the force from the accident would cause the child’s winter coat to compress against the straps and the result would be gaping, loose straps that a child could slip through. More recently (February 25, 2016), Consumer Report issued a report and video on this exact danger. They suggest removing the child’s coat and putting it over them like a blanket once they are secured in the car seat, or using a blanket to cover the child.

So, how would we keep our little girl warm throughout a cold Michigan winter? We tried multiple options including putting her coat or snowsuit on in the house and removing in the car then putting it over her once she was buckled. We tried layering blankets over her once she was buckled. We tried lightweight sweatshirts under the straps. None of these options were convenient or warm, taking the coat on and off was probably the most time consuming, the blankets didn’t stay on, and the sweatshirts just weren’t warm enough. That’s when I knew there had to be a warm and safe alternative to the winter coat. I decided to make something as warm as a blanket that would stay on without the need for removing in the car. I thought that something like a poncho would work the best, and so the first version of the The WarmMe was born.

The first version of The WarmMe was very basic, it kept my daughter warm and safe in the car, so it served it’s purpose but I felt there were improvements that could be made. The WarmMe had a single button on the front to secure it and made opening the front simple and easy for securing the car seat harness underneath. The first WarmMe was made of a fleece lined sherpa material that was cute and cuddly, but pricey plus very limited on color selection. The WarmMe worked well that first winter, so the next winter I made an identical one that was just a bit larger to fit my quickly growing daughter.

This second winter my daughter was becoming more independent and always wanting to walk rather than be carried, even on cold and windy winter days. I noticed that on a windy day her WarmMe would blow open when she was walking around outside. I decided to add something special that sets The WarmMe apart from other ponchos and kept my little girl warm even on windy days-by a special feature, interior pockets. The pockets on the inside allowed my daughter to keep her hands warm and also wrap The WarmMe around herself when she was wearing it outside of the car. Her second winter, my daughter loved her new and improved WarmMe with the added pockets. This was also when I decided to change the material from the sherpa to fleece. Fleece is much easier to work with especially when adding the pockets, has endless color and print combinations available, and is easily washable (a definite bonus when creating something for little kids!).

People stopped us all the time asking where were got The WarmMe and when I said I made it they started encouraging me to sell them. At this point in time I had two young children and was working part time as a school social worker, adding to a small business to my already full and busy life didn’t seem to make sense to me. Plus, my whole goal was to keep my daughters safe in the car, how could I put a price on that?

In October 2015 my life changed. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage. As our dream of adding a 3rd baby to our family was crushed and I was left in the most physical and emotional pain I have ever experienced, I found myself needing something I was passionate about to get me out of the dark place I was stuck in. At this point I had made a couple WarmMes as gifts for friends and family and the feedback was great, they loved how much easier it made everyday life. That’s when I went for it, I decided to take a chance and put them up for sale, as I realized I could reach a lot of parents and caregivers who were looking for a safe way to keep their little ones warm. The business started very small, just a couple postings on my personal Facebook page that were then shared by my family and friends.

Each WarmMe has always been custom made based on the child’s clothing size and the print or color preference, so I just focused on completing each order as it came in. People soon started asking for added features such as an attached hood. After asking around and doing a little experimenting I decided a hood is just too bulky to be comfortable behind a child’s head and neck while riding in the car. I decided to start offering matching hats and they’ve been a hit! The next request was for matching scarves for the mom or dad and that option was quickly added in what I like to call the “Mommy and Me Set.”

In February 2016, The WarmMe was featured on a segment called “Moms a Genius” on WXYZ Detroit and the business picked up from there. I could no longer keep up with orders on my own, so my wonderful and supportive husband stepped in to help. This year The WarmMe made the news again on my local news station WLNS 6 out of Lansing, MI and has been picked up by other stations in states such as South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, and Virginia. This holiday season The WarmMe has been sent to cold states all over the map. The best part of the increased business has been the feedback from happy customers. Almost daily I receive messages stating how much parents and children alike love The WarmMe and how it has made life easier by keeping little ones safe and warm! It is amazing knowing that my product is making life a little easier for parents, while keeping their precious little ones safe! I’m very happy to say that both The WarmMe business and our family are growing as we are expecting the newest addition to our family in January 2017!

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

  1. While the WarmMe is designed to young children safe and warm in their car seats, there are also products designed to fit safely over infant seats while not interfering with the ability to securely buckle the harness. These products are ones that do not go between the child and the car seat or buckles, but go over the seat similar to a shower cap.
  2. If taking a long road trip or traveling far from home when road or weather conditions are really bad (remember, I’m talking Michigan winters!) take along coats, snowpants, or snowsuits. If something were to happen and you ended up stranded these items would definitely help keep your little one warm until help arrived.
  3. Remember safe sleep precautions when using The WarmMe, similar products, or blankets to keep your child warm in the car seat. Always be sure the fabric is away from their face allowing for an open airway. If transferring a sleeping child from the car into their bed always remove The WarmMe.
  4. Here is the official Consumer Reports recommended “simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness”
  • Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
  • Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat.
  • Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.
  • If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

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