Car Seat Safety: Would you Ever...
As parents, we all constantly make decisions about the safety and well-being of our children. Often these choices are made out of convenience or other reasons, but there are many situations where convenience should not trump safety and this is the case in many instances of car seat safety.
I'm a bit obsessed with car seat safety (all my posts can be seen here) and I've been trying to find a Child Passenger Safety Technician course to take but until then, I continue to educate myself through other resources to make sure I am always keeping my children as safe as possible in the car. Here are a few of the choices I've faced and the reasons behind my decisions.
So, would you ever...
Disregard your child's safety if they "look" uncomfortable?
Many parents think older children look uncomfortable when rear-facing, but if a child still fits within the height and weight limits of their car seat, they are much safer remaining facing backwards. And truthfully, many children who are kept rear-facing through their toddler years are uncomfortable when they turn forward facing (Sugarplum begged to get back in her rear-facing seat after being forward for awhile during our lights tour at Christmas). Lack of leg room is not a comfort concern, children will find a comfortable position for their legs and they are much are bendy than us so don't get uncomfortable as easily nor is it a safety concern as forward-facing children are more likely to sustain injuries during a collision from their unsupported legs flying into the seat in front of them.
Many parents also add items to their car seats like strap covers, headrests and plush covers in order to make a seat more comfy-cozy but these items are not approved for use with most car seats and could cause your child restraint to not work properly in an accident. Child restraints are designed and tested to work in a very specific way, altering the seat in any way or adding items that are not provided with the car seat (or approved by the specific car seat manufacturer) could have disastrous results.
Give into a less safe option just because your child wants to be like his/her friends?
I'm a mean mommy and I don't ever let my kids do things just because "everyone else does." One of these things is keeping my almost 6 year old in a harnessed seat even though she could legally be in a booster (or no restraint at all in Florida where we live!). Could she safely sit in a high back booster? Most likely, but children are only fully protected in a booster if the belt fits well (across their hipbones, not stomach and on their shoulder, not across the neck) are sitting properly at all times. If a child leans forward, bends or twists and the belt is not in the right place during a collision, they may not be properly restrained. For that reason, I have chosen to keep her unquestionably protected so long as she fits within the weight and height limits of her harnessed seats.
Protect your car's appearance if it might jeopardize your child's safety?
Many parents with car seats and nice cars are worried about their children and their seats ruining their cars. Two examples:
1) Many people with leather seats will use under car seat mats to try to protect the seats. Unfortunately, these mats can be extremely dangerous by making a seat seem securely installed when in fact it is not. Because many of the mats are rubberized, they grip both the vehicles seat and the child restraint so when checked for movement, the seat may seem tight. Really, car seats will not ruing your seats. Hubby's car has leather seats and yes, our car seats leave indentations, but they disappear within hours of removing the seats! If you want to protect your seats, most car seat manufacturers (check your manual) allow a thin blanket to be used under the seat.
2) Some parents also worry about taller children who rear-face and whose feet touch the seat back (which is not a safety concern as noted above) making the seats dirty. There are "kick-mats" which are made to protect the seat backs, but these should never be used if they sit between the vehicle seat back and child restraint for the same reasons noted above. Instead, you can use a thin blanket or a t-shirt! Put the head hole around the headrest and tuck the sleeves in and if you use a matching color to your car seats, no one will even know it's there! (Beware of using the kick mats on front seats for forward facing children as well since they can cause airbags to malfunction in newer cars.)
Allow convenience to trump safety?
Car seats are a really big pain in the butt. Sometimes a parent might think for short rides it probably doesn't matter if a child is properly restrained, but realistically statistics show that most vehicle accidents occur close to home. The thing about accidents is, they can't be planned for. You never know when they're going to happen so you have to be prepared at all times.
Children also go through phases where they hate being restrained whether it's in the car or otherwise ad might fight getting into the car or scream the entire drive. One might think leaving the straps a little looser to make it easier for getting the child in our out or making the child feel less confined, but not using a car seat properly puts your child at risk of not being properly restrained and therefore protected in the event of an accident.
As parents, we're all just doing the best we can and sometimes our decisions are made without complete information. We think we are making okay choices but in reality we are endangering our children. Car seat safety is something I take seriously, all the time, no exceptions. My children are ALWAYS properly restrained in the car and always will be because while I am confident in my safe driving, I just can't trust every other person on the road.