Thoughts on Thursday… Child Safety Restraints

I know, I know… rolling your eyes at me again.  Many of you who are close to me know how anal and paranoid I am about car seats…. about the installation, the use, etc etc….  Well, lately this is something that has been on my mind a lot and I thought it might make a great TFT post…

I’d like to discuss car seats… no particular brand, but HOW you are using them.  First, let me outline the types of seats. There are a few "levels" of car seats, and how they should be used and what the weight limits are….

  • The Infant seat… for use rear facing only up to 20lbs (some higher).
  • The "convertible" seat…. can be used rear facing for anywhere from 5-35ish lbs and then forward facing from 22-40+lbs with the 5-point harness (some, like the Marathon and Safe Voyage go up to 55-65lbs).
  • The forward facing only (harnessed) seat… These are for 22-40+lb children forward facing only.  Some harnesses go up to 65lbs.  After that, some seats can be used without the harness as a adult-belt buckling booster.
  • The ‘designated’ belt buckling booster seat.  These are marketed for children 4yrs AND 40lbs and all the way up to 10+years old. 

Now, I’ve tried very hard to be well informed on what is safest as far as car seat use.  Here are some things I’ve found via research..

  • It *IS* safest to keep your child rear facing until they reach the weight and height limit on the carseat (which is often 34 inches ad 30/35lbs).  Watch this crash test video if you don’t believe that statement.  Now, Porter has been forward facing since he was about 14mos old.  He’s not an easy rider in the car rear facing.  I recently tried RF’ing him again, but again, he’s not an easy rider.  He fusses.  I can’t hand toys back to him.  Anyhow, this decision is one I’ve really struggled with lately as I feel that RF’ing is so much safer. 
  • Children should stay in a 5-point Harness seat for as long as possible.  *MOST* convertible seats the harness can only be used up to 40lbs, which many kids I know are close to 5yrs old and not quite 40lbs. However, there are seats out there that have higher harness weights if its needed… the Apex (65lbs), the FP Safe Voyage (55lbs), the Radian (65lbs), the Marathon (65lbs), the Regent (80lbs!!), Evenflo Triumph Advance (50lbs).  Having a seat with a higher harness weight would allow you to keep your child in a harness past 4 or 5 years old.  Many, many people choose to do this for safety reasons.  IMO, if they still fit in the seat, keep them in the harness.
  • Booster seats should be used until kids are at least 4’9, 8 years or 80lbs. (I’m not 100% certain on all the laws for this… all states are different… we’re not at the booster stage and NO WHERE near it.  I’ll do more research once Porter is older. 
  • The Mighty Tite is not a safety feature that should be used.  I literally worshiped my Mighty Tite until a few weeks ago.  I found out that most car seat manufactures forbid the use of the MT with their seats.  The Might Tite damages seat belts by over stretching the elasticity and I’ve heard of incidences where the seatbelt has actually snapped in two during an accident because of this overstretching.  I have since visited the Heath Department to have a certified technician inspect my install to make sure that I had the seat in correctly without the MT.
  • Did you know that car seats have an expiration date of 6 years?  And, that date is from the date of manufacture, NOT the date that you purchased it.  The seat Porter has now I purchased online last fall (2006).  The Manufacture date was April 2005.  Its a luck of the draw when you buy a seat… you never know how long its been sitting there on the shelf.  So, that seat has just 3.5 years left to use. You can usually find the manufacture date on the side or back sticker of your car seat, or possibly in the pamphlet it came with. 
  • Weight is not the only factor to take into consideration when choosing a seat.  You must also watch your childs height and make sure the harness is always in slots that are ABOVE their shoulders, never below. Oops… Denise added that rear-facing seats the slots should be at or just below the shoulder.  I didn’t know that!  See, you learn something new every day.

Anyhow… in this TFT I’d like to focus on the use of 5-point harnesses.  So many people I know have put their children in belt-buckling boosters at ages as young as 3, and I actually think one friend has her 2.5 year old in just a belt buckling seat with no harness.  EEEK! They could STILL be in
a 5 point harness even up to 5 or 6 years old, yet they are now riding in booster seats.  Last weekend
my sister in law and I were discussing this topic and while my oldest
niece is 4.5 and by "safety standards" she is old enough to be in a
booster she still isn’t at the 40lbs weight limit.  Lori had been
thinking of putting her in a booster for convenience of transporting 3
kids under the age of 4, and after our discussion I hope I was able to
give her more insight on why a 5-point harness is so much safer for
kids. 

Let me share this video and story with you.  It breaks my heart.  Belle (almost 4) was in an accident with her mom and sister (7).  No one was hurt in the accident, except Belle. She was in a booster just a few feet away from her sister (in a booster also), but because Belle was too small she suffered internal injuries from the adult seatbelt and died that same day. 

You can read her story, about the accident etc. on her Legacy page.

I hope that by sharing that story and by any information in this post it will help someone make a more informed decision on what type of child restraint is best for their childs’ weight/height. 

So, my thoughts today… how do YOU make sure your children are safe in the car?  What do you plan to do to make sure your child is as safe as possible?  What are your thoughts on the 5-point harness longer than 4 years/40lbs, and further… on kids riding in belt buckling boosters up until 4’9"?

I also thought I’d share a few helpful websites I’ve come across..

Car-Seat.org:  The message board here is VERY helpful.  Just a warning, they will suggest rear-facing your child if they are within weight/height, but they aren’t rude about it.  They were so helpful when I was having issues trying to get my seat in tight without the Mighty Tite.  They are also very helpful in suggesting car seats to work with your car and childs weight/height etc.  VERY knowledgable. 

Crumbs in my Couch: This is a blog of one of the CPS (Child Passenger Safety) certified technicians.

Informed for Life: Vehicle crash test and fatality data.  The crash test data only begins on vehicles made in 2003 and newer, though..

Locate a Safety Seat Inspection Station

****************Other TFT Bloggers:*******************
Leslie: How anal are you about a clean house?
Jess: Kids and Junk Food
Jenny: Family dinners
Amy: Kids and toy guns
Michelle: Our dependency on technology
Kristi: Personality Types
Ashley: Organization
Heather: Swearing
Zoe: Kindergarten expectations

  1. Funny fact for you: If my mom kept me in a booster seat until I was over 4’9…I would have been in a booster seat until I was 15 years old. LMAO. Sorry, just had to share that. 😉 Good post!

  2. Great post!! I sent a link to the youtube video to our friends and family who have kids 3-5 in boosters with adult seatbelt. I am like you – I want my kids to be as safe as possible. We just turned Lucy around to face forward about a month ago (she will be 18 months in less than 2 weeks), but she is still only 21 pounds. We may need to rethink this – like Porter, though, she gets very grumpy when she is rear-facing. Norah, at 3, is only 27 pounds, so it will be a LONG time before we even consider anything other than a 5-point harness. Thanks for this post – it is a very important topic!!!

  3. Ayla is 21lbs, 31in and is in a convertible RF 5-point harness carseat. I intend to keep her RF until she reaches 30 lbs. As long as she has her car mirror, she’s pretty content with that. I’m for keeping the kids in 5-point harness for as long as you can. Why not, really? As long as they are small enough to fit in the carseat, that’s where they should be! I guess I’ll decide that for sure once Ayla outgrows this carseat, but that’s at like 65lbs–she’ll be 12 at this rate! ha

  4. We will be keeping Reyna in a five point harness until she is 5. I don’t see a point in switching to a booster. I know it’s easy to transer, but so what. Their safety comes first.

  5. My kids are very tall/big kids. So this is an issue I struggle with and my pediatrician hears at every visit. hehehe.

    Clara Jane was pretty normal until this year. She has shot up in height recently to 44″ at 4 1/2 years old. She weights right at 40 pounds (39.7lbs) and we have not found a five point harness that has slots above her shoulders. By all accounts having the harness start below her shoulders and come up and over is very unsafe. Bothe the Fire Department and the Pediatrician recommended we move her to a booster and adult seat belt… so we have but I don’t like it. At this rate she will be 4’9 in the first grade (slade and I are both over 6′ tall).

    We had to buy Sloan a Convertable rear facing seat at 7 months because he was 23 pounds at his six month appointment. We had to turn him around at 13 months because he is SO tall… he is 26″ at 16 months! I have looked for a rear facer that can accomodate him at this height and we can not find it…

    This issue is very timely for us. I wish there were a special manufactuer for TALL kids to help us find a good fit.

  6. Good topic Nicole! We just switched Gavin into a rear facing convertible. I agree with you that children should stay rear facing as long as possible. My brother, who is a paramedic & firefighter, is nationally certified on carseat installation and he recommends that everyone stop by their local fire station to have them check if their carseats are installed correctly. You would be amazed at how many people have their kids in the proper carseat, but who don’t have them installed properly. For rear facing convertible carseats, the should harness should be at or just below their shoulders, not above. Just an FYI. Again, great topic! I’m glad I’m not the only one who is anal about carseats.

  7. I totally agree. But like others have commented, my son is tall and can no longer be rear facing. He was 31″ at his 12 mos appt. He is 14.5 months now and I know he has grown quite a bit so there is no way he’d be able to be rear facing. He does ride A LOT better forward facing as well. I plan on keeping him in his current car seat until he outweighs the max weight, which I think is 50 lbs. Our 5 point still has 1 more level that we can raise it so the straps stay above his shoulders so I’m hoping he’ll be in this one for quite a while.

  8. awesome post! such great information! tucker is now forward facing in his convertible seat (and has been for quite a while). he does have the five point harness which i will keep on him for as long as possible (which will probably be until he is in a booster seat)! i feel that is such an important feature with kids that use seats. i have made sure that my seat is installed properly – it only takes a minute!

  9. ” *MOST* convertible seats the harness can only be used up to 40lbs, which many kids I know are close to 5yrs old and not quite 40lbs.”

    I guess you aren’t referring to Morgan HAHAHA Remember how he’s like 38lbs at 2 years old????

    It’s a PITA for car seats though, we now have to replace my mom’s and sisters which only go up to 40lbs. We have a Marathon and here in Canada, they are only tested to 48lbs so we don’t have much longer either with ours.

  10. Although COMPLETELY necessary, I still think the designers and manufacturers of these car seats have only one thing in mind and that’s money!!! If not, then why haven’t they found one or maybe two (figure one for infants) car seats that will run the gammet through the ages.

    With respect to the 6 year expiration, you mean to tell me that if a car seat was unused and brandnew, it would be obselete in 6 years. I am just not buying it.

    Still, good topic. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I just found out that carseats had expiration dates the other day when I was switching mine from rear facing to forward facing. It was imprinted in the plastic across the back.
    I think one of the most important things to remember is that the *best* carseat out there isn’t going to do a bit of good if it is not installed properly!

  12. I agree with MacKenzie below… My kids are tall/big from my oldest who’s 10.5yrs and 90lbs to my 5yr old who’s 50lbs. I have a booster for my youngest but there is no reason for me to keep my 8yr old OR my 10yr old strapped in booster seats. I think it’s all about “raising kids in a plastic bubble” and MONEY now!!

    Sorry, I just don’t remember when I was growing up being on car rides strapped in 5 point restraints, watching DVDs and sucking on bottled water. But times change, I guess.

  13. Well, I am all for a 5 point harness until the last possible moment, but I do agree with some of the pp that it really is dependent on your situation. I’m not sure how big, tall my kids will be at 5, if they are like me, they will be small, if they are like my hubby, they will be big, so we’ll see. You are very informed about car seat safety, way more than the average parent for sure. Your post was so helpful and since I’ve never had my carseats properly installed, I will be making a few calls today! Thanks for all the fabulous info!

  14. I’m really sorry I’m so late seeing this link, but I just wanted to address something that I saw several times in the comments. “My baby is too tall to rear face” Actually height doesn’t really “matter.” Carseat manufacturers have to have some sort of guidelines for parents as far as height and weight, however, if your child is still within the weight limit for rear facing, and has an inch of the carseat shell above their head (for most convertible seats), you can most certainly keep them that way. The straps should be positioned AT or BELOW the shoulders. My 2.5 year old is about 36 inches and happily rear facing (30lbs). I’ll second carseat.org as an excellent resource for more information. They will be more than happy to help you determine whether your child car continue to rear face longer!

    -Rachel, an equally anal, paranoid, carseat safety nut!

  15. Hey Im now looking at carseats and getting interest in the different ones. I was before, but not as gung-ho as you have been. But i think im getting there. Mainly because I just saw a commercial about APA recommended rear-facing up to 2 years?? I didnt know too many seats sat rear-facing that long. And I just watched a video on youtube about an 18-month old that suffered a broken neck because he was forward facing in a correct 5 point harness, but the family is saying that if they wouldve kept him rearfacing, then it could’ve been prevented. Im now wanting to go outside and check all our carseats and see what we currently have and what we need for both of these kids. At least Ill have about 9 months or so use out of the infant carrier, hopefully to get me through the winter months with the cover on it. Then I want to make sure I have a rear-facing that will last longer. Maybe even to 24 months? How long do u plan on leaving Hudson rear facing? How long does your FP Voyage recommended rear-facing for? here is the link for APA that just came out last month. http://aapnews.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/30/4/12-a

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