Parentelligence Blog

'car seat safety' Parentelligence posts

Look Before You Lock

 Why is it so dangerous to leave a child alone in a car?  Because of biology, anatomy, thermodynamics.

Let’s talk a little about Infant and Child Anatomy:

  • Infants and children do not temperature regulate well. They have too much surface area for their body mass, meaning they lose heat too quickly because they don’t have enough mass to contain the heat.
  • Because they lose heat quickly, they generate it faster, 3 to 5 times faster than adults. For example, when you’re holding a baby for a while and then hand them off to someone else, you feel chilled. This is because the baby was generating so much heat that our temperature drops. (We are the best thermo-regulators that a baby can have.)

Next, let’s set the stage and look at what happens in a car:

What's Your Favorite Excuse?

 When it comes down to the choice of rear-facing and forward-facing, there are lots of ‘reasons’ why parents don’t want to keep their child rear-facing longer, but there’s only one reason that counts for keeping them rear-facing, and that’s nearly eliminating the risk for spinal cord injury for your child.

As car seat technicians we hear all kinds of reasons why parents don’t want to keep their child rear-facing.

Which car seat should I get?

Picking out a car seat is one of the most daunting chores when having a baby. I can tell you the least important aspect of which car seat to buy is the color. The baby doesn’t care what color, and in a crash it won’t matter.

When expectant parents find out I’m a car seat technician, the most common question is “Which seat should I buy?” I will not deny that car seat technicians all have their favorites. There are some car seats that are easier to install than others, but I am always apprehensive to name a specific seat. There is not one seat that fits every situation. (The examples I have in this post are just examples, not endorsements or recommendations.)

Ease-of-use is a huge selling point. It can mean that parents are more likely to use it properly.

For newborns, there are two ways to go. You can start a baby in either an infant-only/rear-facing only car seat with a carry handle, or you can start them out in a convertible that typically stays in the car and will eventually turn forward-facing.

The features to look for in a car seat for an infant (either type) are:

How do you catch a raw egg?

With the ‘new’ American Academy of Pediatrics and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommendations for keeping kids rear-facing longer, there has been some questions as to why.

When we install a car seat rear-facing, it’s reducing the risk of injury from the most common and the most severe types of crashes: front-end collisions.

Let’s talk about what happens in a front-end crash.

The front-end of the car lowers;

The back-end raises up;

The speed is decelerated abruptly;

But due to momentum, everything in the car continues to travel towards the point-of-impact. (including anything loose in the car like the stroller and big dog in the back)

When we have the child rear-facing and the car seat is properly installed using either the seat belt or latch attachments, the car seat will pivot on that axis (the seat belt or latch). When the car seat pivots, its allows the child to ‘ride out’ the crash. The seat will ease the child down at a slower rate, dispersing the energy from the crash across the child’s entire back and in the car seat. This action and positioning keeps the spine in line reducing their risk for spinal cord injury.

The physics involved in this are the same physics that are involved in catching a raw egg. If you think about how you catch a raw egg, you don’t catch it like a line-drive baseball. You catch it and follow it’s trajectory slowing it down at a safer rate as to not crack the shell. You’re dispersing the energy from the impact in your hands and across the shell. The same way a rear-facing car seat works.

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