Carseat Safety, Part 4

OK, this is the last installment of my series on carseat safety.  (I’m sure all my childless readers are thankful for that!)   

  The reccomended guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics and most state’s laws are that a child may be transferred to a booster seat by the age of four AND 40 lbs.  I’d like to give you a little more information beyond those limits that makes a case for what’s called “extended harnessing.”

   Extended harnessing has found attention in the public eye through the Kyle David Miller Foundation, an organization set-up to honor the memory of a little boy who didn’t have to die.  Kyle was in a car accident when he was riding in a booster seat at age 3, his seatbelt failed, and he was ejected from the car and killed.  His parents weren’t aware that a 5-point harness carseat existed for a child of his size, and after the accident they learned that had he been in a 5-point harness, his life could have been saved. 

  Some reasons to keep your child in a 5-point harness beyond 4 years and 40 lbs.:

  • “Children under 7-10 years of age should not be placed into a booster seat. This is because the child’s iliac crests (hip bones) are not yet developed enough such that they prevent the adult seatbelt from resting on the soft abdomen. Therefore an adult seatbelt provides insufficient protection to the child and could result in internal injuries, possibly resulting in the death of the child.”   Tom Bologa, President of Britax USA
  • The force of the crash is spread across five points of their body rather than three. 
  • Even though some booster seats have adjusters, it is a concern that a child may not have the seatbelt positioned correctly over his chest and shoulder.
  • Wiggly kids aren’t safe.  Seatbelts are designed to work when you’re sitting up and back, so that the emergency locking mechanism will kick-in and the belt stays tight, allowing no slack, in the event of a crash.  Young children often don’t have the maturity to stay still and keep the belt correctly positioned throughout the entire duration of the car ride.  When a child leans foward and the belt is stretched, that allows for more room for their body to be ejected foward in a crash.
  •  Carseats with a 5-point harness have an added safety of the top tether.  This stabilizes the carseat (and the child) against the seat of the car during a crash. This greatly reduces the amount of foward motion and space a child’s head will cover when they are flung foward.

“The number one killer of children in America is vehicle crashes. The problem with that statement is that nothing is changing. Now if that statement was, for example, the number one killer is childhood cancer what would happen? The parents would be all over the doctors to find a cure. But the responsibility lays in the parents hands and nobody is doing anything about it.

Best practice is ABOVE the law, not just the law minimum. Children are not replaceable, so its worth it for a parent to take the extra steps to make their child safe. The saddest part is too many people worry about vanity and others’ thoughts. They may think that their 6 year old will look too big for that forward facing child restraint, or that their best friend will nag on them about using a forward facing child restraint for their 8 year old. All a belt positioning booster seat does is lift a child off the vehicle seat to sit better behind the seat belt, both at the shoulder and how the belt lays across the hips. A 5-point forward facing child restraint provides all the extra safety that is above mentioned.”  (Kris Abbink Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician)

A few reccomendations for seats:

  • Britax Regent – This is a foward-facing only seat that holds from 22 lbs. to 80 lbs.  $250-300
  • Sunshine Kids Radian80 – This rear-faces up to 33 lbs. and foward-faces up to 80 lbs.  $250-300

  • Any other previously mentioned seat that harnesses above 40 lbs.

Are combination/3-in-1 seats reccomended?  (one seat that changes from a convertible carseat to a booster)

No, not generally.  While these seats are safe, they tend to have very low harness height which means your child will likely outgrow the 5-pt. harness BEFORE he is 40 lbs/4 years old… which leaves you with the decision of putting him in a booster seat before it is safe or buying another seat.  This could be unsafe and a waste of money.  You’d do better to just invest in a higher weight-limit seat in the beginning and use it for longer. 

OK, let’s be honest.  Unless you’re really convinced by the safety facts, you’re probably saying to yourself, “This is ridiculous.  We hardly even wore seatbelts when I was a kid, and I’m fine, I can’t imagine my 80 lb. child sitting in a carseat!”  To that I say, thank God our parents weren’t in a serious crash because we’d probably be dead.  Let’s not jeopardize our children’s life for the sake of the “I’m ok” argument.  For more information, see www.car-safety.com

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12 responses to “Carseat Safety, Part 4

  1. This article freaks me out. I am constantly debating about moving my 4 year old out of her five point Britax Wizard into a Parkway booster. The reasons are completely selfish and not worth the death of my child. That seat is huge and it sits behind my husbands seat who is 6 foot 5. We are all cramped and my very tall 4 year old can just about stretch her leg out and kick my husband in the head. She thinks thats histerical. Anyway, someone told me once that carseats have and expiration date and my husband thinks that is rediculous. Do you know if that is true? This article really helped me sort out my feelings about a booster. Thanks,
    Andrea

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  2. I’m so glad it was helpful for you! And yes, carseats do have expiration dates! I think I might write a post about that…. Usually a safe bet is 5 years, but you want to make sure to check with the manufacturer. You can see the date-of-manufacture on the side of the seat, and then call Britax to see what they say. I’m glad you brought this up, I’m going to post on this asap and include a video that shows what happens to an expired Britax seat. I understand about your wanting to move to what’s easier… I’m still climbing in the backseat of my two-door car to put my 16 month-old rearfacing, and it’s SO much harder to strap her in than it would be if she were foward-facing. But it’s just SO much safer. If you can keep your daughter in a 5-point harness, I would do it for as long as you can. I’m not familiar with a Wizard, so just make sure that she is still within the height and weight limits and then go as long as you can. If you wanted a smaller seat, I *think* the Regent and the Radian are much skinnier seats that aren’t high-up like the other convertible seats. Good luck, just take it one day at a time, that’s what I tell myself, it’s just one day longer that they’ll be the safest possible. =)

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  3. FYI, Britax seats expire afer 6 years from the date of manufacture.

    To the original commentor, if you’re looking for a slightly smaller profile seat than the wizard, check out the new-ish Graco Nautilus. My 7YO still has a couple inches of torso room to grow in it, and he loves the seat.

    The Regent is very wide, but because it doesn’t have a base like the Britax convertibles (incl. Wizard), it isn’t any taller. We have a Regent too, and love it.

    BookMama – Child Passenger Safety Technician

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  4. I just tried to purchase new comfort and EPA foam for my 2004 Britax Wizard. However, since the Wizard is retired, Britax no longer makes the foam for the seat. We’ve used ours everyday for the last 3 years, and the comfort foam really needs to be replaced (the back foam is coming apart at the seat belt slot) before my younger son can now ride safely in it for the next 2 1/2 years (6 year life, right?).

    When I called Britax, I spoke to 3 different reps who told me different things. Two of them told me to take out the comfort foam from the Wizard and that it was “just as safe” without the foam!! One of them even said to buy a comfort foam piece for the Boulevard (which is a different size) and use it for the Wizard if I really needed new foam. He said he wouldn’t recommend it or guarantee the safety, but I can still go ahead and do it! One of the other reps strongly disagreed and instead said that there was nothing Britax could do for the safety of my son.

    I am disgusted. What should I do? I am thinking about writing to Consumer Reports with this information and having them test the car seats without any comfort foam.

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  5. BookMama, any ideas? I’ve never heard of this particular problem, and I’m definitely not a certified child passenger safety tech, so I couldn’t really say for sure. If it were me, I think I’d just bite the bullet and buy a new seat.

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  6. I would rather use it with the damaged comfort foam than without. I’m not familiar enough with the Wizard and the Boulevard to know whether that particular piece is interchangeable

    I haven’t come across this situation personally, though. I think that Lynette should visit my friends at http://www.car-seat.org/and post her question there – there are tons of experienced child passenger safety technicians and advocates who post there, and I’m sure someone there will be able to help.

    (I wouldn’t bother writing to Consumer Reports about this – their car seat testing is pretty much useless anyway.)

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  7. I think that this article needs to be sent to all pediatricians and schools. I know many children who aren’t even quite 40 lbs whose parents put them in a booster. My daughter is 5 years old and 37lbs and she is in a Britax Regent (weight limit 80lbs). She wants a booster like her friends have. Her safety is more important. I read when I was pregnant with her that your child’s health and safety are more important than others’ thoughts and feelings. Parenting is not a popularity contest. I have used this to guide me when I meet resistance from friends and family who think I am nuts and/or “overly protective”.

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  8. Maybe you ladies can help me. Is it possible to buy replacement foam? My son got sick in his convertible Eddie Bauer seat and I had to strip it down to the plastic. He got to the seat while it was stripped and broke the foam in the headrest before I could get to him. I have called customer service about it once already and was told they didn’t sell that. But I find that hard to believe since they sell a replacement piece for everything else on the seat and it can easily be removed for replacement. My husband thinks it would be okay to just put the piece that broke off in the cover and continue to use it. I bought a new seat. But at $169.00 if I can buy a replacement for the other I’d like to take the new one back.

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  9. Crystal – Are you referring to the EPS foam? (It’s the foam that resembles very sense styrofoam.) If so – if the break is clean and not in many places, you can probably tape it back together and continue to use it.

    For more car seat info or if you have other questions, I recommend visiting http://www.car-seat.org/ .

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  10. BookMama-yes it was a clean break. The EPS foam is like scored and it broke clean along the score. It has a cover that fits tightly enough to keep it in place. I just didn’t know and I hated to toss such an expensive seat that had barely gotten any use. It wont affect the safety of the seat at all will it? Thanks for the info!

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  11. I appriciated your article but i have one correction. the Britax Frontier (harness/ booster combo) will harness to 53 inches, which is just as tall as seats. it is a very good buy for those looking to extend Harness for older children who will soon be over 53 inches.

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