This whole parenting stuff is full of surprises. There are things I thought I would feel strongly about, that now I am like "meh, no big deal", and then there are things I thought I would be "meh, whatever" about, and it turns out now that we have these kids, it's a really big deal.
Car seat safety is one of those things that I started out as "meh, whatever", I just wanted a seat that looked nice and was easy to use, but it has become a super big deal to me.
After dealing with the paranoia of pregnancy, then worrying about SIDS once they were here, I should have known this was going to be next. The leading cause of death for ages 1-14 is car accidents. That's a big freaking deal. Car seats have come a LONG way since I was a kid, thank goodness for that. They undoubtedly save lives. But there are so many common mistakes, mistakes even I made at first until I figured it out. A car seat can only be expected to work as well as it has been tested and designed if it is installed and used correctly. (The misuse rate is well over 80% and in some areas over 90%.)http://www.car-safety.org/basics.html
Anyway. I have struggled with this a little bit because no one really wants to hear "fyi, you are using your car seat totally wrong." And with facebook and such, car seat mistakes and misinformation is very common. I have sat on my hands and not commented A LOT.
Standing on my soapbox for a minute:
The most common mistakes are chest clips at belly level (can cause internal injuries), straps not tight enough, using a coat in the car seat, using expired or used car seats, using after market products that are not included with the seat (strap cushions, bundle me's, etc.) , and incorrect installation.
Rearfacing is a parent's personal choice that to me is not so personal. It is the law for all kids to be rearfacing until age 1 AND 20 lbs. It is strongly recommended that kids are left rearfacing until AT LEAST age 2, and preferably until the weight/height RF limits of the seat. Kids are much safer when they are rearfacing, period. This is not new, there have been many many studies that have proven this for years now. I have heard people make a ton of excuses for turning their kids forward facing earlier. That's each parent's decision, for now (I personally think the law should be changed to make it until 2, but that's for another day.) But the very plain fact is that kids who are rearfacing are less likely to be injured at all, compared to the same kid in the same seat forward facing. Of the kids who are injured, kids who are forward facing are much more likely to have severe injuries than children who are rear facing. (Even leg injuries are more common with front facing kids than rear facing kids.)
Luke is still rear facing now, and will be until he outgrows the limits of his seat. He rode all the way to Florida and back rear facing and it was not a problem. Kids are flexible, they will find a comfortable way to sit with their legs rearfacing. They can cross them, prop them on the seat, whatever. Luke went through a stage from about 15 months till about 20 months where he HATED getting in the car. It wasn't because he was rearfacing, it was because he hated being strapped in, he would have hated forward facing just as much. These days he gets in the car without hardly any complaint unless we are leaving from somewhere really fun and he doesn't want to leave. Even on our drive back from Florida, when we stopped and got him out and had to put him back in, he didn't complain a bit. The parent bonus is you can eat and drink stuff without them seeing you. The only way I can get away with eating something without being demanded to share by my toddler. If my 34 lb and 98%ile for height almost two year old can still comfortably fit rearfacing, most kids should be able to.
Anyway, I'm going to step off my soapbox and get back to the "journey" part of this.
The other day, a good friend of mine posted a picture of a bunch of kids in her car in correctly installed car seats. :) Not only that, but her son is around 19 months was still rear facing. I commented on it, as did a few other people, blah blah blah. Then one of her friends came and posted that the FIREFIGHTERS in our city and the city next to us, actually told her that it would be "DANGEROUS" for her to rearface her child past the age of 1 because he was so big, and that recommendation is actually for just smaller kids. WHUCK?
My jaw freaking hit the floor at that. These same firefighters have inspected our car seats after we first had Luke and told us that the handle to our Graco Snugride always had to be down when we put it in the car. I was confused about that because I hadn't read that anywhere in the manual, so I asked some car seat techs online and they said that it used to be that way with the ORIGINAL Graco Snugrides about 10+ years ago, but it hasn't been that way for a very long time. (Note: Some seats do require the handle to be in certain positions so not a bad idea to check, but Snugrides are one of the most common infant seats and this change was not recent at all.) Anyway, as much as I tried to nicely reply that the information this person had been given from the firefighters she trusted was incorrect, nothing I was going to say or link was going to convince her otherwise. (Then she started complaining about how their legs are too scrunched up rearfacing so I'm not too sure that she really believed it.)
While I am grudgingly okay with a PARENT making the decision to not rearface their child, for whatever reason, it is also the parent who will have to live with that decision if god forbid it comes back to bite them. But, at the very least, they should be given correct information about rearfacing vs. forward facing and someone trusted to give information out on the safest way to use car seats should ABSOLUTELY NOT be encouraging parents to turn kids forward facing at 1 year old and giving them wrong information.
I was talking about this with a girl I worked with in Wichita who is now a certified car seat tech. I was shocked that she was not even a little bit surprised by this.
I learned that
A) Many firefighers and emergency personnel frequently trusted to install/inspect car seats are NOT actually certified car seat techs (CPST's- child passenger safety technicians is the official label when they have taken the course and passed the written and hand's on testing.) They may have had informal training from someone else or no real training at all.
B) Not all CPST's are good, evidently it is possible to spend a lot of the class and training texting and goofing off, and still barely pass, then go out into the real world and spout incorrect information.
C) In my entire 80,000ish population city, according to the CPST directory, there is only ONE CPST in our area. And he's a firefighter, possibly one of them who advised against rearfacing, possibly he just works with the person who advised that. In the neighboring city, there are only 3 CPST's, again, only firefighters.
At first it started off as a rant/joke to my friend whose picture had prompted the discussion, "I'm just going to have to become a tech myself I think!" . But then after I did some research and learned more (like that we only have 1 in our city!), I am strongly leaning towards doing this.
I am not sure that I will make any money doing it, probably not, as most CPST's are volunteers. But it might save lives. And at the very least, I will know I will be out there giving people accurate and up to date information on how to use their car seats.
Unfortunately, there is only one class in our area this year that I see on the schedule right now, it's in a week, far away, and is not really going to be do-able. In the meantime, I guess I better spend my time practicing installing our seats and learning more. And maybe I should consult my husband about this. :) This is another stop on our "journey" that I don't know we would be visiting if we hadn't lost Olivia, but I kind of feel like this is something else I'm being led to do. And ultrasound school is probably at least 2 years away (I think I was something like #138 on the waiting list, with classes of 24 starting each year...), so it will give me something to do with my time that is productive.
In case you are interested in learning any more facts about rear facing vs. forward facing, here are some good links:
*And many many more!*