Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Car Seat Safety

In the state of California, kids have to be in a car seat until age 6 and 60 pounds. Here's a chart to check out your state's seatbelt laws by age and weight. I don't remember ever having been in a car/booster seat as a child because it wasn't the law back then. In fact, I remember being allowed to sit in the bed of our pickup truck. It's amazing how things have changed. By all accounts, if I was a kid today, I'd be 12 before allowed out of my booster seat. I'm crossing my fingers for our wee little MetaBaby.

When we were debating car seats before MetaBaby was born, we did all sorts of research and just got more and more frustrated and confused. By all accounts, despite the huge range in prices, there was little that made us think more money meant more safety. More important, cheaper seats are not more dangerous. However, at some point we took a step back from the infant seats and began to research convertible seats. We knew the convenience factor of infant car seats was undeniable, since no one wants to wake a sleeping baby.

Here was our reasoning:
  • The more you move a car seat, the more opportunities there are to bump, bruise, or otherwise damage it. This might interfere with the ultimate goal of the car seat as a safety device.

  • Because the convertible seat is one unit, as opposed to two like the infant car seat, it seemed safer. Less parts to click together when securing, or break in a collision.

  • As a small person, it seemed like carrying around 10-15 lbs, plus the weight of the baby, was enough to do some potential damage to my back. I have enough back problems as it is.

  • Our goal was to wear our baby as much as possible. If we went out with him, we would put him in a sling. Keeping him in a car seat promoted less baby wearing.

  • It's not necessarily good for a baby to be in the same position all day. Having a convertible car seat forced us to move him around more. That is, we were less likely to leave him in the seat just because he fell asleep.
We finally decided on the Britax Decathlon. When we first brought him home at 9 1/2 lbs., it felt like he was swimming in it despite being well secured by the additional cushions included with the Britax to accomodate infants. He soon filled it out perfectly. At no point did we regret our decision for the car seat, and we would definitely make the same decision again. We even saved a bit of money since we did not have to buy a second car seat once he outgrew the infant model.

Personally, the safety of car seats is something I take quite seriously. I've seen baggage handlers at airports toss car seats onto conveyor belts. As a result, I would never consider checking a car seat a safe alternative. As with anything, once it leaves your sight, you can no longer be assured of how it's being protected. My concern with the gruff treatment of car seats stems from the following information from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Q: Can I use a car safety seat that was in a crash?

A: If the car safety seat was in a moderate or severe crash, it needs to be replaced. If the crash was minor, the seat does not automatically need to be replaced. The NHTSA considers a crash minor if all of the following are true:

The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
No one in the vehicle was injured. The air bags did not go off.
You can't see any damage to the car safety seat.
If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of the seat. See the resource section at the end of this handout for manufacturer names and phone numbers.
As I consider the safety of car seats, I can't help but wonder about the infant safety on public transportation. I have considered public transportation, but I don't see how I'd feel safe without a car seat for MetaBaby. Per Babycenter, car seats are not yet allowed on public transportation because there is nothing to secure them on, though they are still a relatively safe method of transportation.
Overall, buses and trains are very safe forms of transportation; because of their bulk and weight, they absorb much of the force of a crash. Still, it can be unnerving to think of bringing your child on a moving vehicle without a protective seat.
I confirmed that Los Angeles' MTA and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus do not have a method of securing a car seat to any of their buses (or trains), nor do they have any plans to accomodate them in the futute.


MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Wow, what a great thorough article. You should submit this to a carnival. We have such similar tastes girl, we too have the Britax (and love it).

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful entry for the Carnival Of Family Life. I wish I had seen this when my kids were still babies!