Thursday, August 27, 2015

Safety in the Car {a BFBN post}

The Babywise Friendly Blog network ladies are all talking about different facets of car seat safety today. I am sharing on what the law in Texas requires, sharing my unique experience in this area as being married to a Texas State Trooper, and also showing you how we travel.

As mothers, we may disagree on many parenting topics/philosohies - but I think one thing we all have in common is that we want to do our best to keep our children safe in all areas - and especially when traveling by car. I am especially partial to this because of the unique nature of my husbands job. He is a state trooper in Texas and has an advantage that many of us do not. He sees firsthand both the great benefit and devastating tragedy that can come from using a child safety seat properly or improperly in a vehicle. I feel blessed to be able to have his perspective, as it has guided me in being proactive toward keeping my girls safe while we travel.

When I was preparing to write this post, I asked Tyler for his input. He immediately told me of a tragic event that had a silver lining. In January 2014 Tyler was working a night shift and the dispatch called him out to a crash. It was dark, around 9 pm. When he arrived on the scene, he saw a pick-up truck in the middle of a pasture on its side, driver side down. It was clear the truck had rolled several times before landing in that position. The driver was thrown from the vehicle and unfortunately did not survive. Another passenger, an adult, riding in the front seat was also thrown from the car. Neither of the adults were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. In the backseat, a 3 year old.

The 3 year old had been properly restrained in her carseat and walked away without a scratch. In the same crash that had a fatal ending to one, another walked away without any injuries. Praise the Lord for this child's safety.

I believe that alone shows the vast difference in safety that a child safety seat in the car can make. A life saving product, and one that has come so far in the past 30 years. The research and technology behind the manufacturing of car seats has really become  so sophisticated, as they have proven to be valuable in the event of a crash like the one I just described.

Car Seat laws may vary from state to state, but this what the State of Texas requires:

Transportation Code section 545.412 "(a)A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nice inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system."
What the rear view is in my minivan

There are no laws against when to turn the child from rear facing to forward facing, but the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages a child be rear facing until at least two years of age. This has to do with the immature development of the spine and neck. In the event of the accident, when rear facing, movement is absorbed into the area of the car seat that surrounds and supports the neck and spine. This is incredibly important for young children who still have an underdeveloped spinal cord. If facing toward the back - when force occurs their bodies will still be moving, but will be moving directly into the car seat that will absorb the movement and force. If facing forward, the child will still be moving forward upon impact, and their tiny bones can't as easily withstand the force, leading to possible life threatening injuries. The AAP recommends age two as a minimum - but also recognize that it is really not until age 3 that children's spinal cord and supporting muscles are fully capable of handling this type of trauma.  I should also note that it is NOT AT ALL dangerous for feet to touch the back of the actual seat of the car while rear facing. Any possible injury from the feet and legs touching the back of the seat are FAR less in detriment than injuries that could occur to the spine, head, and neck if facing forward prematurely - and its highly unlikely that legs being "squished" up against the back of the seat would actually cause any injury whatsoever. It is  really tempting for parents to turn their child around earlier than recommended because in early toddlerhood is common they they begin to get "bored" or "fussy" while riding in the car, and turning them around to have a view seems like it would be more enjoyable for everyone riding in the car. I would suggest that if this becomes a problem, to try having music for them to listen too, or making sure they have a lovey or a pacifier for soothing. They will usually grow out of this stage shortly after it begins. I also recently listened to a lady who was employed by both the Texas Department of Transportation and Scott and White Hospital do a demonstration about car seat safety. She reminded new mom's that toys that are marketed to attach to a car seat are never crash or safety tested, and so its ideal to not use them. No one really knows what damage they could (or would not, for that matter) cause in the event of an accident.

Anslee is 6.5 years old, weighs 44 lbs and is 46 inches tall. She is petite for her age, but is still in a high back booster with a 5 point harness. She fits the height/age/weight requirements and so she stays. She is beginning to ask about regular booster seats (no back and use the car seat belt), so far she is just questioning and we will keep her in a seat like this for quite a while longer.

When it comes to car seat shopping, there are a million options. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on car seats to be truly safe, and ANYTHING is better than nothing. In our family, we do not buy the cheapest or the most expensive option. We read research and read reviews and trust that not only will the safety seat be a saving grace, but that the Lord will provide protection over our children.

Kensington at 4.5 years old, riding in a high back booster with a 5 point harness. I suspect she will be comfy here for several more years! She is an a Recaro Brand Pro-Ride booster.
Laynee, age 3, in a convertible - forward facing safety seat.  She rides in a Britax Advocate CS car seat that has been passed down from her sister, Kensington. (PS she somehow got an extra comfort cushion and stuffed it behind her head in this picture before I realized and took a picture)

Wynn at 14 (almost 15) months old. She is in an infant carrier here. Chicco Key Fit 30. It is built for up to 30 lbs. (She is 19.9 lbs as of last week) I don't need a "carrier" any longer with her, but she still fits safely in it and is happy. She is still rear facing and loves talking to her sisters during car rides. We will move her to a larger/non-carrier convertible car seat soon, still rear facing. Her feet do touch the back of the seat of the car she is secured in. :)

There are community organizations almost everywhere that will:

1. Provide a family with a free child safety seat that will meet their needs.
2. Train a family member on how to properly install a child safety seat into a vehicle. (Police stations, Fire Stations, Hospitals, and Car seat safety professionals)
3. Will train a family on how to place a child into a child safety seat (Family service centers, police and fire stations) They will show you exactly how much give should be between your child and the safety belt. They will also show you exactly where the chest clip should on the child.

There are several resources available to parents who are actively seeking help in this area.  I have felt so incredibly blessed to be married to a man who will do this for families in our communities that need his help. Please never be hesitant to reach out for help when you need it. So many are willing to partner with you in keeping your children safe while traveling!

Happy and safe travel wishes to you all!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm glad you're putting work into keeping your kids safe!
However it appears that your older kids all need their seats adjusted. Harness straps must be at or above their shoulders for forward facing.
It's also important to remember that height is far more important than weight for infant car seats, so keep an eye on that as well. :)