As a total car seat nerd, I’m passionate about sharing the dos and don’ts of car seat safety! Today I’m bringing you an interview with a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) to help bring awareness to the most common mistakes parents make when it comes to kids in cars. Let me introduce you to Lissie Antos of Buckleberry Carseat Checks! She is a CPST located in the Inland Empire area of California. She performs private car seat checks and workshops for parents who want to ensure that their kiddos are as safe as possible. Thanks, Lissie, for this great info and taking the time for this interview!
What is the most common mistake you see with car seats?
This one is a bit of a toss up! By far, the most common mistake I find with forward-facing seats is that people forget to use the top tether. The top tether should be used on ALL forward-facing car seats whenever possible as it reduces forward head movement in the event of a crash.
For rear-facing infants, the most common mistake I see is “LATCH borrowing.” This is a term that refers to using the inner lower anchor from each set of outboard passenger seats to secure a seat in the middle. Most car seat manufacturers do not allow LATCH borrowing. If your car seat manufacturer does, the vehicle manufacturer must also. Nine times out of ten, you need to use the seat belt to install a rear-facing seat in the center position. Andrea’s note: We did this with our oldest! We had no idea at the time – but as it turns out, those anchors belong to the outboard seats. Know better, do better.
For older kids, a mistake I see on a daily basis is kids sitting in the front seat who really should be in the back. Keep older kids in the back until they are 13. When airbags deploy, they can cause injury to children. If you must put a child in the front seat, make sure the seat is positioned as far from the airbag as possible.
I understand that aftermarket products are a no-no. Why is this?
There are two main reasons that using aftermarket (aka non-regulated products) is not recommended. First, car seat manufacturers can only test their products in the way in which they intend them to be used. Therefore, seats are not tested with these items. Second, items like head cushions, padding, strap covers, etc. can get in the way of buckling a child properly and may compress in a crash, making harness straps too loose.
What is one tip you would give to new parents?
The number one tip would be to meet with a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Find one at cert.safekids.org. Make sure the technician you meet with is certified and up-to-date on their information.
Are there any inherent safety benefits to an infant seat versus a convertible?
No. The majority of parents use an infant seat because 1) they are marketed in such a way that most people assume they are the only choice, and 2) they are convenient. Infant seats are particularly convenient in the winter and summer because you can get your baby situated inside the house rather than buckle them in a hot/cold car. Using a convertible from birth (as long as the infant meets the minimum weight) is perfectly fine.
Let’s talk about older kids. They seem to get left out of these conversations. Why should parents use a high back booster over a backless booster? Does it really matter?
Older kids are by far more at risk in the car than younger children. This is because so many parents do not realize how long their child needs to be in each stage of child safety seats and “graduate” them much too early. The main advantage of a high-back booster is that the shoulder belt guide helps keep the seat belt in place and the child also can rest their head more easily if they fall asleep. If a backless booster is used, don’t forget the shoulder strap adjustor, if needed.
What advice would you give to parents of a child who is ready for a booster or no car seat at all?
Just like potty training, using a booster takes some practice, too. I suggest trying it out a few times on short drives once your child is close to outgrowing their five-point harness. If your child can sit up for the entire ride without slouching or reaching for toys, etc., then he or she is probably ready. You’ll likely need to give lots of reminders and may even need to help your child with buckling until he/she gets the hang of it.
If your child is 4’9″ and over 8 years old, they may be ready to ride without a booster in the back seat. Ensure that they are by looking up the Five Step Test. All five criteria should be met. Keep in mind they may pass the Five Step Test in one vehicle, but not another. If you aren’t sure, consult with a CPST.
Do you have any suggestions for vehicles or seats for large families with lots of kids still in car seats or boosters? Fitting everyone in can be a conundrum, not to mention access to get in and out.
Whenever anyone with 3 or more children is looking for a vehicle, I caution them to make sure there are plenty of top tether anchors for forward facing kids. Some cars that are clearly marketed for families have terrible LATCH placement. If you have a spot with no top tether, consider placing your rear facing child there. When purchasing car seats, look for seats that are narrow at the hip and the shoulder. Not all car seats will work side-by-side. Sometimes bringing car seats to the vehicle dealer is necessary to ensure your set up works. CPSTs love figuring out the best configuration. Work with one if you’ve got a tricky situation.
The van is ready for baby, whenever she decides to come! We have a new forward facer as well…she’s 3 months away from her 4th birthday and I’d love to keep her rear facing but it simply won’t work with four seats in use, so I’m okay with it. We made it this long! . #momvan #preparingforbaby #nesting #extendedrearfacing #whatdotheydowiththeirlegs #largefamilylogistics
Last question. If you could say only one thing about passenger safety, what would it be?
I guess I would say… it matters. Think about it — a car seat is one of a small number of items you will use for your child that has the potential to save their life. Read the manual. Use it properly. Heaven forbid you are in a crash, at least you will have done all you could to keep your precious cargo safe.
Lissie Antos is Child Passenger Safety Technician and mother of two. She is passionate about educating new and seasoned parents alike on how to keep their children safe in the car. Lissie uses her experience as a teacher to help parents feel confident about installing and using their child’s car seat. She created Buckleberry, a mobile car seat installation service, in 2015. Find her on Facebook or Instagram!