American mother Rachel McNamara recently took to facebook with an eye-popping car seat demonstration. Her point: make sure your kid is strapped in correctly.
In her post, Rachel showed two photos of her young son suspended in mid-air, held in place only by the straps of his car seat harness. Her accompanying message was simple, but effective:
“After strapping your child into their car seat, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable flipping it upside down. Remember that the chest clip should be at armpit level and the straps should be tight enough to pass the pinch test.”
It’s something we all know we should know, but somehow seeing the gravity-defying power of a good car seat is the ultimate reminder to check our child’s car seat manuals.
After strapping your child into their car seat, ask yourself if you'd be comfortable flipping it upside down. Remember…
Turns out everyone was a bit stunned by the photos, because what started out as a simple post about her son’s car seat, soon turned into a world wide conversation, with the post generating over 48,800 shares and 2,500 comments. Judging by the comments, parents the world over are now looking at their car seats a little differently.
Rachel was also pretty stunned by the response, later adding an extensive update on what we all need to be keeping in mind when installing car seats. Here are a few of her points (which we’ve updated to include some Australia-specific guidelines):
1. First things first, don’t try the baby flip at home
As Rachel explains, she was not advocating for parents to flip their kids upside down before every car ride. She simply explains that “they should feel confident that their child would be safe IF the car seat was flipped over in an accident. I think this is a great visual and shows just how important proper car seat use is.”
2. Know where the shoulder straps need to be
Rachel urges parents to read their manuals and check where the shoulder straps should be positioned. All countries have different guidelines, but here in Australia, the rules are pretty clear. According to Kidsafe, Australia’s Child Accident Prevention Foundation, rearward and forward-facing restraints should use the shoulder harness slot that’s nearest to the child’s shoulders – but not below them for rearward-facing restraints, and no more than 2.5cm below for forward-facing.
3. Install your seat correctly
Some disturbing research by NSW Roads and Maritime Services found that roughly 70% of Australian children were incorrectly restrained in their seat. So, if you’re installing the seat yourself, carefully read both the car and the car seat manuals. Otherwise, you can choose from a range of authorised fitting stations around the country that can install the seat for you. Check your state’s road traffic authority.
4. Match the restraint to the age
In her post Rachel had a few words to say about keeping children in a rear-facing restraint as long as possible. In Australia, the National Child Car Restraint Guidelines confirm that rear facing restraints offer better protection, as long as the child fits in. This may be up to two or three years of age, depending on your child.
5. Be wary of hand me downs
As Rachel points out, “never buy a used car seat unless it comes from someone you can absolutely trust. You can’t always tell if a car seat has been in an accident or if it was cared for properly. To add, every car seat has different wash and care instructions. I’m going to sound like a broken record…but…always read your manual.”
Rethinking our own attitudes
Installing the right child car seat doesn’t have to be complicated. But sometimes corners get cut, and as Rachel reminds us in her post, our own ambivalence can be our worst enemy:
“People might … say “20 years ago I didn’t even wear a seatbelt and I’m perfectly fine!” Well, that person got lucky. There are many children who are not alive today to tell their story. Times have changed. There are more drivers on the road today. We have more distracted drivers due to cell phones. We also know a lot more than we knew back then about children’s bones and development. Car seats are constantly evolving to become safer. There was once a time when cars didn’t even have seat belts or airbags. Do you know why cars have seat belts and air bags now? Yup! Because it’s SAFER.”
Thanks to Rachel for making a bold visual statement, and proving that a correctly installed car seat can mean the difference between life and death when we’re out on the roads with our little ones.
Did Rachel’s post make you stop and think too? Tell us about it.