Friday, July 18, 2014

Make sure your child is in the right Car Seat


Please see updated post July 2015


car seat guidelines

Car seats are an essential part of keeping your child safe. California law as of 2012 requires:

Infants should be rear facing in the back seat until they are at least 1 year or 20 pounds. This is the safest place and position in the car.The current recommendation is that they stay there until they are two.
They can sit facing backwards until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Size is a more realistic factor than age.

Toddlers who have outgrown the rear facing weight or height limit for their car seat should use a forward facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. This applies to children younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear facing seat.

The current California Law also requires a car seat or booster seat until your child is 8 years or 4 ft 9 inches. Previously the requirement was  6 years or 60 pounds. Height parameters make more sense than the previous weight ones. You child needs to be tall enough so that the seat belt goes across the chest, not across the neck.

When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use Lap and Shoulder Seat Belts for optimal protection. If your children complain about this rule, show them photos of race car drivers all bucked up in their restraint system. Be matter of fact about it and explain that there is no compromise for safety (there is also a mighty large fine if you are caught breaking this law.)

All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection. Airbags can actually be quite dangerous to a small child so it is worth making sure that this isn't an issue with your car and the placement of your child's safety seat.

Most accidents happen within a few miles of your house. Even a short trip down the block requires the full "buckle up". Hey parents, model good behavior and always make sure you fasten your own seat-belt!

Did you know that car seats expire? Most of them have a 6 year life span. This date can usually be found underneath or behind the seat. I questioned this when I first found out about it. The explanations made sense to me. First of all buckles and straps can wear out. Prolonged exposure to sunshine can weaken the plastic. Also, the technology is always changing and this ensures that nothing gets too out of date. Save the instructions/registration in a safe place. Do make sure you register your car seat. If there is ever a recall this will ensure that you are notified.

The AAA states that 75% of car seats are installed or used improperly. As your child grows, there are services offered here in the San Francisco Bay Area that will check out your car seat or booster seat and make sure it properly installed. Have the infant car seat checked before the baby is born and then again with each transition to a larger seat.

AAA 553-7203
2300 16th St suite 280
Contact is Dee Rivera. Appointments need to be made  at least 6-8 weeks ahead of time. Dee is the only current SF AAA car seat person and she only does it on Wednesdays. She says that email is a good way to arrange things: Dee.zapata@GOAAA.COM . You do not need to be a AAA member to take advantage of this free service. AAA also offers a fun interactive safety related website, , which is appropriate for kids 4-7.
(one of my mom's says that she had easier access through the AAA in Mill Valley)

CHP (California Highway Patrol)                  415-557-1094  
This is very popular and is by appointment only. Please make an appointment as far in advance as possible. The woman on the phone there said that her preference is for people to call as soon as that pregnancy test comes back positive! ( I assume she was partially joking, but you get the gist.) 

SFPD                415-575-6363
They try to have an officer at all of the local police stations who is trained to do the car seat safety inspections. Call the number above for more info.

The Colma police department will do a car seat inspection for free (650-997-8321) and they currently do NOT have a long wait for appointments.

Baby World Has a technician at all of the stores:

4400 Telegraph Ave, Oakland,510-547-7040 Mon-Sat(10-5:30) Sun(12-5)

556 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, 650-588-7644 Mon-Sat(10:30-6) Sun(12-5)

514 4th St, San Rafael, 415-456-5533 Mon-Sat(10-5:30) Sun(12-5)

Appointments are needed but reasonable (within a week.) Inspection and installation are free if you purchased the seat through them. If you got a seat from somewhere else, they will still do a free inspection, but any adjustment or installation will be $40.00.

All of the above resources have changed so often during the past couple of years that it makes my head spin.
This info is current for July 2014

If you are not inclined to schlep, click below for info on an inspection that comes to you. It is not free, but it is certainly worth knowing about and some of my patients have used Bryan and raved about the service: 


-NHTSA website has a place to click to find updated local car seat inspection stations for those of you who are not in the Bay Area.
(national highway traffic safety association) (Keyword :car seat ) has a very comprehensive guide to safe installation.

 Car safety doesn't end with being safely buckled. I know it is hard to avoid distraction with a baby fussing in the back seat. Consider getting one of the specially made mirrors so that you can keep on eye on your rear facing baby. Make certain that they can't reach anything that is a choking hazard. Don't let them hold the keys; they can lock you out!! This happened to one of our little patients in the Noe Valley Pediatrics parking lot last year. Mommy parked and handed the fussing 15 month old the keys in order to distract her. Mom exited the car and as she walked around to open the back door, her child clicked the lock button on the key. Mom was locked out. Luckily it was a cool San Francisco day. Dad had an extra key, but of course he worked on the peninsula. He was on his way to the rescue when the little girl clicked the "unlock" and we were able to get into the car. Of course if it was an emergency we would have called the police or AAA to break in right away. In this case, our little patient had been as happy as can be, hitting lock over and over again and grinning at us through the window.  

Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle. Children can die from prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures in a hot car.
Thanks to one of my patients who read the post and then shared this link

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