As the number of births in Cavalier County continues to rise, so to does the number of car seats. Recently, Safe Kids Grand Forks and Altru along with the Langdon Day Care Center held a car seat safety check where area parents and expecting parents could have their car seat installation checked by a professional.
By Melissa Anderson
“What we know from national and local studies is that four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly,” Patty Olsen, a specialist with Safe Kids Grand Forks, said.
In Olsen’s experience this holds true for when she checks car seats. Recently, Olsen conducted a car seat check for a family, and the father quipped ‘I’m an engineer. Of course I did it right’. Upon reviewing the car seat’s installation, Olsen found that he, in fact, had not installed it correctly.
“It can be complicated to get it right, and every car seat fits differently in different cars,” Olsen said.
Many of the areas that parents can improve their child safety are in the little areas such as making sure the car seat is in tight enough and that the actual restraints on the child are not too loose. The best way to ensure that the car seat is installed correctly and that the car seat is fitting the child properly is to read the car seat’s instructional manual.
“99.9 percent of the time parents have the right intention, but there is just so much information,” Olsen said.
Olsen has been a car seat tech for 15 years and continuously reviews and updates her knowledge of car seats through manuals as well as vehicle manuals specifications for car seat installation.
“It’s a lot of information and so much to prepare for when you are having a baby or have young kids. It’s just a way to get parents and grandparents comfortable using their car seats,” Olsen said.
Some tips that Olsen had for parents when getting a new car seat is to make sure that the car seat is registered. This ensures that, should a recall occur, the parents will be notified about it. Expiration dates for car seats are also important to note as technology changes and improves car seats that are the safest for kids. It is also not advised to use a car seat older than six years unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer.
“This doesn’t mean a specific brand. When people ask ‘What type of car seat should I get?’, I advise them that the car seat has to fit the child, fit the car, and the users have to be comfortable using it,” Olsen said.
Checking the manual periodically to review the weight and height limits as well physically checking the seat for movement is also a good idea as this will ensure that the car seat is used to maximum effectiveness in keeping your child safe.
For Jordan and Emily Braunberger, who are expecting their little bundle of joy in August, the car seat check couldn’t have been held at a better time.
“Jordan and I went to the car seat check because we are expecting our first child, and we are total newbies at the whole parenting thing so we knew it would be a good thing to attend. We aren’t due for another month, but we figured better to have our car seat installed and get it checked early,” Emily Braunberger shared.
The Braunbergers learned how to properly install their car seat as well as a few other things such as the safest place to install their car seat.
“I didn’t know that the safest place for your car seat is the middle seat. There were quite a few other tips and tricks that the car seat technician gave us, and she also sent us home with a packet of information which was very helpful,” Braunberger said.
The soon-to-be parents were both glad that they attended the clinic and shared that the technician was very friendly and helpful and made it a great experience.
“Being new parents, we have a lot to learn, and the car seat clinic was an excellent hands-on way to gain some knowledge,” Braunberger stated.
The North Dakota Department of Health has the following recommendations to ensure children are safe in their car seats:
Rear-Facing – Children should ride in rear-facing car seats until at least the age of 2. There are two types of rear facing seats on the market, infant seats and convertible seats.
Most infant seats can be used until the child is 22 to 35 pounds. These seats are recommended to be used until the child reaches the highest weight limit for the specific seat or until the child’s head is within one inch of the top of the seat.
Convertible seats can be used for both rear-facing and forward-facing positions. Most convertible seats can be used in the rear-facing position until the child reaches 30 to 40 pounds. Again, it is recommended to use the seat in the rear-facing position until the maximum weight or height limit is reached for your specific car seat.
Forward-Facing – When children are at least 2 years of age or have outgrown the limits on their rear-facing car seat should they should be placed in a forward facing position car seat with a harness. Check your manual for when the child can no longer safely use the car seat which usually depends on the child’s weight. Car seats with harnesses can typically be used up until 40 to 100 pounds, but, again, checking your manual is very important.
Boosters – When children have outgrown the harness in their forward-facing car seat, they may be moved to a booster. The child should be at least 40 pounds and at least 4 years of age. Children should ride in boosters until they reach about 4 feet 9 inches tall or the seat belt fits correctly over their body. Most boosters can be used until the child reaches a weight of 80 to 120 pounds.
For a seat belt to fit correctly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest. It should not lie on the stomach or across the neck.
Keeping up-to-date on your states child vehicle restraint rules is also a good idea as these periodically change based on new information and safety protocols. Recently the North Dakota Department of Health increased the age for children to use more than just the vehicle’s passenger restraints. Effective August 1, children younger than eight years of age will be required to ride in a child restraint (car seat or booster seat) unless they are 4’9” tall or greater.
For parents, grandparents or guardians who would like more information on basic car seat safety, the Cavalier County Public Health District can provide some brochures.
“We have general information and advise everyone to read their car seat manual thoroughly,” Steph Welsh, a county health nurse, stated.
If you would like to have your car seat checked, the Pembina County Public Health unit in Cavalier has a tech on staff that can assist in determining if a car seat is installed correctly.
Safe Kids Grand Forks located in Grand Forks also has monthly car seat check clinics in Grand Forks. They can also check car seats by appointment. Please call 701-780-1489 or visit their website at www.safekidsgf.com