We are excited to be back with our Tuesday Introduction series and this one is an important one! Brett Solomon is a dad, writer of all things automobile related and founder of Strapped In Car Seat Safety where he offers Child Passenger Safety Lessons, car seat checks and installations. Based in Woodbury, NY Brett will also make house calls for a reasonable travel fee. We asked Brett a few questions about Strapped In Car Seat Safety and how we can be sure we are doing the right thing when it comes to our car seats:
- How long ago did you start Strapped In Car Seat Safety? What inspired you?
Being an automotive journalist, I am also the resident ‘car guy’ of the neighborhood. Lots of peers who were also new parents would stop by my house to give their car seats the once-over. My wife is nervous nelly and wanted me to have our seats checked at the police station. Where I was looked at like I had three heads… “We don’t do that here anymore. Go check somewhere else!” When parents need their car seats checked immediately, you are going to run around looking for places with a newborn not secured properly? That’s crazy. When I finally found a ‘fitting station’ I learned the curriculum is a week long course. Which I was fascinated about because I thought to myself ‘What could you learn about car seats that takes a week?’ I was wrong. The class probably needs to be two weeks. I took what I learned and helped more people. One family was in a bad accident with their children. They walked away unscathed- they prompted me to start my service where there is a dire need two years ago.
- What is the biggest mistake you see new parents make with car seats?
If we break it down into two parts, there are the errors installing the car seat into the vehicle and errors harnessing the child into the car seat itself. On the vehicle end, usually the seats are too loose (there should be no more than 1″ of movement at the beltpath) or forgetting to use the top tether on forward-facing seats. For the child, typically the harness is too loose around the child or the chest clip is too low. It should be at armpit level. These are the most common problems that I see, but there are a multitude of other problems out there. Which leads to your next question…
- Why should parents have their seats checked or installed with a certified car seat technician?
One small error in a crash may not be catastrophic. However, compounding small errors can lead to disaster. That is why it is a great idea to have the seat checked by a current Child Passenger Safety Technician. With a 90% misuse rate, typically we find errors that may not be on the radar of a parent who is otherwise careful.
- What should parents look for when purchasing their car seat? How can parents know what seats will work well with their car?
For infants, most of the time the parents are looking for a carrier from a reputable company that is easy to use with a stroller system. There are some new technologies such as ‘load legs’ or additional side impact protection that can help in a crash. For toddlers, you are looking for a seat that can remain rear-facing for a long time with a high weight limit. For those with smaller vehicles, the car seat footprint is something to look at, but typically every mom around here drives an SUV anyway! Ultimately, the best car seat is the one that YOU can use properly with your child every single trip. Check to see if it is easy for you to adjust the harness. That is what you will be using the most. If you will be moving the car seat in and out of the vehicle a lot, Buy Buy Baby will usually allow you to take out a display model to the parking lot to see if it easy for you to install and move around. Typically I can install most seats in most vehicles, but ease-of-use for the parent is important.
- There seems to be a lot of changes happening with car seat requirements and safety! What should parents know about what’s new?
The new proposed rule for 2014 has to do with the LATCH connectors. The NHTSA wants to implement a 65 pound maximum weight limit on these connectors. So Google the weight of your car seat, then add the weight of your child. If the two together are more than 65 pounds, transition from the LATCH connectors to installing the car seat with the vehicle seatbelt. In either case if the child if forward-facing, it is important to use the top tether. Sometimes installing the car seat with a seatbelt can be tricky for parents who are used to LATCH connectors, but I am here to help!
Thank you Brett for so much useful info! If you are in the New York area I encourage you to reach out to Brett as he is a really helpful resource for new parents and definitely teaches car seat safety without making it scary! If you are not in the New York area visit the NHTSA to find someone near you.