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Class teaches lesser-known car seat safety tips

Katrina Blaylock, child passenger safety technician, gives a course on car seat safety at The Commons Feb. 18. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Katrina Blaylock, child passenger safety technician, gives a course on car seat safety at The Commons Feb. 18. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: February 25, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 25, 2016) -- Oftentimes common tasks can seem simple enough that taking a class on the subject might seem redundant, but for parents there can never be enough information when it comes to child safety.

That’s why the Fort Rucker New Parents Program held the Car Seat Safety Class at The Commons Feb. 18 – to teach parents, seasoned and new, that there’s more to car seats than simply buckling them in.

“This class teaches parents that don’t know everything there is to know,” said Vicky Harmon, nurse specialist for the new parent program. “Sometimes parents might put their car seats in thinking that they’ve put them in correctly, but in the class they realize that they’ve been installing the seat incorrectly, or that the seat belt is too loose or the harness might be too loose.”

Throughout the class, parents learned about the different types of car seats for different ages, at what ages and weight children should be forward-facing or rear-facing, as well as a bit about aftermarket products for car seats, and whether they can be helpful or harmful to the child in the event of an accident.

“All of those things contribute to the safety of the child if there is an accident, so we wanted to make sure that we get some of the public to come and learn what factors are important when it comes to car seat safety,” said Harmon.

When it comes to car seats, Katrina Blaylock, child passenger safety technician and instructor of the class, recommends that people always buy car seats new and avoid buying used seats.

“A lot of times, parents won’t know if the car seat they’re buying used has been in an accident or not, and if you don’t know a seat’s complete history, you shouldn’t buy it,” she said.

Blaylock said that some manufacturers have guidelines on whether a seat is still safe after an accident, but many recommend replacing the seat entirely in the event of an accident just to be safe.

“Sometimes the damage can be inside the car seat where it’s not visible without taking the seat apart completely and destroying it to find out, so if you’re in doubt, call the manufacturer and ask whether the seat should be replaced,” said the safety technician, adding that car seat replacement is covered by insurance.

One of the big discussion topics during the class is when people should go from a rear-facing car seat to one that is forward facing, and Blaylock said the law varies depending on the state, but some states have amended their laws to require children remain in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2 or at a weight of 30 pounds.

Blaylock said that a rear-facing car seat is much safer, up to five times safer, especially for younger, smaller children because their vertebrae are not completely developed.

“The spinal cord of a young child only has to stretch very little in order to cause irreversible damage or death,” she said. “If a child is too young to be in a forward-facing car seat, they are prone to internal decapitation, which is a result of snapping of the spinal cord because of the impact.”

Another topic discussed during the class was that of aftermarket products for car seats, such as additional straps and toys.

Toys and aftermarket products can be dangerous to a child as many aftermarket products don’t have any federal regulations that require them to be crash tested, and many of those products may not be flame retardant, said Blaylock. Additionally, toys shouldn’t be attached to car seats as they can become unnecessary hazards to the children if an accident occurs.

“A good rule of thumb for toys is if it’s not soft enough to toss at your baby, then don’t have it in the car with them,” she said.

It’s also no secret that children can get messy and car seats aren’t immune to a child’ mess, but Blaylock stressed the importance of not washing or soaking harness straps, especially with cleaners as doing so can weaken the fibers in the straps. If the straps are dirty enough, they should be replaced rather than washed.

One final topic the class hit on that many didn’t know was a hazard was children wearing winter coats while sitting in their car seats.

“When buckling a child wearing a winter coat into a car seat, the harness isn’t able to clasp as tightly and can leave a child loose in the car seat,” said Blaylock. “If you buckle the baby in the car seat with a jacket, then take the child’s jacket off, you can see how much slack is on the harnesses, and children can easily slip out of the car seat in the event of an accident.”

For that reason, it’s recommended that jackets be removed from children before securing them into car seats. When tightening the harness, people should not be able to pinch any slack around the child’s collar bone, she added.

Kari Brenner, military spouse, who is welcoming a new child into her family after 11 years, said she needed a refresher course to make sure she’s up to the challenge of keeping her newborn safe.

“My son is 11, so I’m a little out of practice and I feel like I need to refresh a little bit on some of this,” she said. “I didn’t even know about the jackets and I was going to install additional straps onto our car seat, but after the class I’ll probably end up tossing the straps. It was a great informational class.”

For more information on car seat safety, call 255-9647 or 255-3359.

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