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Is Your Car Seat Safe?

When H1 was born, the husband and I debated over whether or not the car seat was put in correctly. As the husband is an aerospace engineer and very fond of reading instructions (and I am definitely not), I let him be in charge of installing our car seat and conceded that his installation must be correct. Let me just say that his initial installation involved a towel under the seat to make it “level” and about an hours’ worth of struggle and head scratching.

Problems arose for me whenever the car seat needed to be removed for upholstery cleaning, transportation of larger items, etc. If the car seat was taken out, I definitely could not put it back in as I do not have the same Masters’ degree in engineering as my husband and I could not figure out his elaborate system of levers, shims, pulleys and other jerry-rigging.

Enter a ray of hope: someone suggested I have the owner of Car Seat Savvy LA, Tamara Garcia, come talk to the Stroller Strides Long Beach moms about proper car seat installation. Not knowing exactly what type of service Tamara provided, I scheduled a time when she could come to my house and show me how to properly install a car seat. As soon as Tamara got into my car, she discovered that the car wash attendants who had last cleaned my car had unbuckled one side of my car seat and had not re-buckled it after they had vacuumed the back seat. I had no idea my daughter had been riding in that seat for a week without it being properly secured . Tamara said that this happens a lot. Scary. She showed me where the headrest should be (I had it wrong) and where the restraints should be positioned on my daughter (yep-I was wrong again!).

Tamara showed me how to properly install my car seat in my make/model car. She then had me install the car seat more than once while she watched. Hurrah! I was now competent in installing the car seat and no longer a prisoner to my husband’s schedule. I didn’t even have to use a towel to level out the seat and installation took less than five minutes. I have to say it was also more secure than when my husband installed it (sorry, honey).

Fast forward to the anticipated arrival of my son, H2. I called Tamara as soon as I was ready to install a second seat. I figured I could save myself time and worry by asking Tamara for her recommendation on a good car seat and have her come over and show me how to install it.

My husband now has me installing all the car seats (4 total) in our two cars.

Experts estimate 85-90% of child restraints are misused or installed incorrectly. Here are the some of the most common mistakes:

  1. Misuse of LATCH system: the seat belt is not locked properly, wrong belt path being used, car seat moves more than 1″ side to side or front to back
  2. Car seat facing forward too early: children should be rear facing until they are two or exceed the height and weight limits of their seat
  3. The 5-point harness is being used incorrectly: the harness is too loose, the chest clip is positioned incorrectly, and harness is not threaded in correct slots
  4. Child is not using a restraint that is correct for their size and age
  5. Car seat is no longer good: it is expired or has been involved in a crash

If you think your car seat might be installed incorrectly, you can talk to Tamara after class at Stroller Strides of Long Beach on Friday, July 19th (at 10:20 a.m. @ Colorado Lagoon Playground-5119 E. Colorado St.) or on Tuesday, July 23rd (at 10:20 a.m. @ Mother’s Beach). Car seat checks are free but if any corrections need to be made, there is a fee (usually about $30 for an on-site check). Her pricing goes up for house calls and the number of installations being done (two seats, two cars, etc.). Long Beach families using her services for the first time can get a discount by liking her Facebook page (search Car Seat Savvy in the Facebook tab).

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