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Paramedic parent has good advice on infant car seats

July 27, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

In selecting infant car seats, most of the conversation involves the price or star ratings each model has gotten. An Australian parent offers a different take

Infant Car Seats

We all know that when we strap in our “most precious cargo” in infant car seats, we’re taking a crucial step to ensure our children’s safety.

As an auto accident attorney, I’ve had to deal with the most tragic of automobile accidents: the ones involving very young children. These cases are always especially heart-breaking. I’ve also seen the insurance companies and defense attorneys add insult to injury when a young baby or toddler is hurt in an auto accident. The defense in these cases is often to imply or insinuate — often without any proof whatsoever — that the injuries to an infant are also the parent’s fault because an infant car seat was not used properly when the wreck occurred.

Safety must always come first with our children, so in the Michigan Auto Law blog, I’ve offered rear-facing car seat guidelines, explainers on Michigan’s child car seat law, and knowing when to make the transition from child car seat to booster seat.

Recently, I came across Project Hot Mess, a women’s blog written by Krystal Kleidon. She’s an Australia-based wife, mother, business owner and, along with her husband, paramedic. One of her posts talks about an aspect of infant car seats that she says seems to be overlooked when selecting a car seat: whether the parent can properly strap the child in it.

She approaches the subject based on what she’s seen as a paramedic. And it’s enough to make you want to flip … your child. I’ll explain that in a minute.

Never mind the form of infant car seats — it’s how you as a parent function them

I had to smile and nod when Kleidon said becoming a parent means wracking your brain in sorting through what other people consider the “best” infant car seats. It involves poring over safety features, star ratings and reviews, as well as getting sticker shock over the prices. As the saying goes, I’ve been there and done that, and it’s indeed a stressful process for new parents.

I may be a very good auto accident lawyer, but I’m also someone who can’t screw in a light bulb. Installing a car seat is a horribly daunting task for me — and for thousands of other parents.

Kleidon says the focus also has to be on you.

The amount you spend on infant car seats doesn’t matter if you’re not strapping your child in properly:

“Between my husband and I, in our 20 years’ experience, we have NOT seen a single child harmed in a car accident where the child was restrained in their seat properly. Not a single one.”

Kleidon does note that straps aren’t the only factor in preventing injuries, and that plenty of research exists backing up what is and isn’t safe. But she adds that her time as a paramedic has provided a firsthand look that few other parents ever get — or, given the lurid nature, would ever want.

She’s arrived on the scene where seats have been ejected from vehicles. Rollover crashes that have left the car mangled. Accidents so severe, she was convinced no one could have survived them.

So it’s safe to say she and her husband have credibility when it comes to how well infant car seats work when it counts.

In using infant car seats, turn it upside down

In reviewing what parents should be cautious of when using infant car seats, Kleidon says they should ask:

  • How tight are you making the straps on your child’s seat?
  • Can the child pull his own arms out of them?
  • Can you only fit one or two fingers underneath the straps?
  • Is the child wearing a big, puffy jacket that stops her from being strapped in properly?

Then — and here’s where I mentioned flipping earlier — she asks whether you as a parent would be comfortable strapping your child into an uninstalled car seat, then holding the seat upside down to see how well the straps work.

In a car crash, infant car seats can roll around, throwing the child with it. Using Kleidon’s upside down exercise, you’ll be checking the effectiveness of how well you strapped your child, but done in a controlled environment like your home instead of in a catastrophic accident.

So take Kleidon’s advice to heart. Those straps are what keep your child out of danger when disaster strikes.

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