My neighbor, Opposite of Me — and I mean that in the NICEST way possible — needed a new car seat for her baby, who is just a little older than Porcelain. As a Child Passenger Safety Tech, I was more than happy to help her buy a new seat. In fact, rather than go to the Babies R Us near our house, I dragged her all the way to Durham so we could go to Buy Buy Baby (which, in my experience, has a great selection of seats).
I became a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2009, and I’m currently certified through 2013. To certify, I attended a 40-hour class taught by CPST Instructors — mostly about seatbelts — and passed a few exams (book and installation) as well as checked seats with an instructor. Since getting my certification, I’ve taught classes at a local hospital in Charlotte on car seat safety and also attended safety checks.
Here’s why I’m a CPST: There’s very little you can actually control in life, but you CAN control the kind of seat your child is in if you get into a crash. And I don’t want to wish my child had had side-impact technology because we were t-boned. Also, I love car seats. I love car seats probably in the same way that some men love cars, which is to say that I am interested in all the specs that most people find tedious and annoying.
Unfortunately, for as much as I’m into seats, I don’t have very many “cool” ones. I’m severely restricted by the amount of children I have versus the amount of space in my minivan. I have to fit three-across in a bench row, which means I must use the narrowest seats possible. That limits my choices to SK Radians (now known as Diono), narrow booster seats (old-school Britax Parkway/Not-SG) and one Combi Coccoro which I love because it’s so light. I really don’t get excited about new seats anymore, because I know that unless it’s super-narrow, I can’t use it.
However, it was fun to live vicariously through Opposite of Me and get a convertible seat for her baby. After trying several seats, she decided on the First Years True Fit Recline. Immediately we went to her house and read the manual (together) and installed it (also together). Because that’s the crux of child passenger safety — being able to install a seat properly and use it properly EVERY TIME, especially when your next-door-neighbor CPST isn’t around. As a tech, I’d rather a parent have a less-fancy car seat and use it right every single time than have a more expensive seat with lots of bells and whistles, but use it incorrectly. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75% of all seats are installed incorrectly.)
Here are a few more stats to chew on, courtesy of Car Seat Site (all stats attributed on original site):
- Children riding in the front seat are 40% more likely to be injured in a crash than those riding in the back seat. Safe Ride News May/June 2005 Vol. XXIII, No. 3
- “Nearly a third of children ride in the wrong restraints for their age and size. Recent data from the Crash Injury Research & Engineering Network indicate that inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more likely to be seriously injured than their appropriately restrained counterparts.” National SAFE KIDS Campaign
- Children ages 2-5 restrained by a seat belt only are 4 times more likely to suffer a head injury compared to those in a child restraint. CHOP Research Institute CPS Issue Report
- Car seats reduce the risk of death by 71% for infants and by 54% for children ages 1-4, and reduce the need for hospitalization by 69% for children ages 4 and under. National SAFE KIDS Campaign and NHTSA Child Passenger Safety Technician Program Participant Manual pg. C-4