Thursday, March 31, 2011

Proper Seatbelt Fit Matters

Hopefully you read my post about Anne's crash. If you didn't, please read it here. Anne's children were protected because of their properly used and properly installed carseats. But Jeff and Anne were protected because of their properly used seatbelts.

Most of us don't think about how the seatbelt is supposed to fit. But it is designed for the lap portion to ride over your hip bones, and the shoulder portion to cross your chest and rest between your shoulder and neck.

The oldest age that states require a child to use a booster is 8. There are very few 8 year olds that actually fit the seatbelt properly. A child needs to use a booster seat until they can pass the 5 step test. Children usually pass all 5 steps between ages 10 and 12. Does your child pass?
1. Sit with your back flat against the vehicle seatback
2. Knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat
3. Lap belt lays across the tops of the thighs, not on the stomach
4. The shoulder belt crosses the center of the chest, and rests between the shoulder and neck
5. You can sit this way for the entire ride

 photo 10yrs65Lbs.jpg

If your child doesn't fit the belt properly, use a booster. If you pass the test, make sure your belt is worn properly- coming from above the shoulder, across the middle, touching your body all the way down, the lap belt low and snug, flat on the hips/thighs. Keep it there. If you're old enough to be out of a harness, you're old enough that you are responsible for your safety in the car. ONLY YOU can keep yourself safe by wearing your belt right.

Here is a picture of a bruise on Anne's hip. This was from a properly fitting seatbelt. This is also 5 days after her crash. If the lap portion had been higher on her stomach, it would have caused internal organ damage.
 photo AnnesHip.jpg

This is a picture of Jeff's shoulder, also 5 days after the crash. The hospital was concerned enough to CT his shoulder. Because his belt was properly positioned in the middle of his shoulder, in contact all the way across his chest, coming from above rather than below, it was only scrapes and bruises. What if it had been on his neck instead? Or if he had had it too low on his shoulder and rolled out? What if he had tucked it under his arm and left his head unrestrained and ribs vulnerable?
 photo JeffsShoulder.jpg

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why I do what I do

Most of you know I'm carseat crazy. You may even think I'm bordering (or even crossed the border) on carseat insane. But do you know why I do what I do? Because it saves lives. How many times do we see on the news that children, parents, families died in a horrible car crash. My job is to try and prevent those stories. I have a friend, named Anne. Anne is just as carseat crazy as I am. What I am posting below, is her story. She and her family were in a crash a few days ago. They could have easily been one of those stories on the news. But they weren't, because Anne is carseat crazy. Make sure you read the entire thing. Read how many times they crashed and rolled. And read what the (very few) injuries were. Then look at the pictures.

On our way to Phoenix, just a few miles away, my husband (driving our 2002 Odyssey) hit an obstacle in the road. We don't know what it is, but we all felt the bump, then were airborne, and onto a gravel shoulder. We skidded on the gravel. The van hit a barrier (right at the rear driver's side, where my 4 year old daughter was seated.) It then flipped across the highway. My husband was braking the whole way. (He had just had the tires rotated and pressure checked, and the brakes replaced.) It slowed us considerably. We went into a ditch at an angle and became airborne. We went down on the passenger side of the vehicle, nose first, and then flipped over upside down.

My daughters (the 4 year old, almost 5, and her 2 sisters, 6 almost 7 and 2 almost 3) were screaming. This meant they were alive and I was glad. My husband and I were suspended by our (properly worn) seatbelts. I had significant neck pain. My husband was able to exit the vehicle fairly easily, but I was trapped; I had to be extracted with the Jaws of Life (after fending off a bystander who wanted to cut my belt with a pen knife and pull me out, yelling at him, "Do not cut my seatbelt! Wait until the EMTs arrive to hold c-spine! If you want to do something, get me a jacket and treat me for shock!")

My 4 and 6 year olds were harnessed properly in properly installed and used, tethered seats. (The 6 year old is usually boostered, but because it was a late night trip I didn't want to risk her falling asleep and falling out of position.) My 2 year old was rear-facing. The heavy cargo in the van was all packed tightly down in the bottom of the trunk, compartmentalized behind and under the seat as much as possible before we left. My husband and I had our seatbelts and headrests properly fastened and adjusted and were seated in proper position.
My husband has a mild lung contusion and abrasions from his seatbelt and "road burn." I have a lot of stitches in my arm (which dragged along the ground outside the car-- the trauma surgeon says that the braking slowed us enough to save me from having it ripped off) and on my face and bruising all over. My 6 year old has minor abrasions (more road burn) and bruises. My 4 year old, with the most severe injuries, suffered a severe cut to her foot (aptly and completely repaired by great surgeons) and a broken leg (remember, she was AT the first point of impact, a side impact.) My 2 year old, who was in the rear-facing seat, was completely unharmed. Not a mark on her. Nothing. Despite the fact that we landed on the side of the car she was on (she was behind me, I was in the second row passenger seat, and the forward-facers were second and third row driver's side.)
 photo AnneVan3.jpg

 photo AnneVan2.jpg

 photo AnneVan1.jpg

 photo AnneVan4.jpg

Anne said aside from the dirt, the carseats looked perfectly fine. THIS is why you can't buy used carseats, you won't know if it's been in a crash. Even though they look fine, they have done their job and must be replaced.

I was asked to add to this blog post. It is doing it's job and spreading information. However, some people are turning it into an "anti-booster" message. Anne's 6 year old is usually in a booster, except on a trip where she might fall asleep (and lean out of position). Anne was asked if she would reconsider the booster, and put her daughter into a 5 point harness for all car rides. This is her response:
My view on boosters has not changed. The reason that she was in a harness, was that she was likely to fall asleep, and she sometimes slumps when she does. She will still be boostered for normal use.
My view has always been that boosters are safe for a child who can stay seated properly 100% of the time, and that was not E (6, almost 7) on a long trip, and B (4, almost 5) is no where near it. So they were harnessed. If this same crash had happened and E was in a booster but asleep and slumped, she'd have been more hurt.

I think by 6 most but not all kids are booster ready for most trips, but most are NOT before 5. I think moving from harness to booster is ideally a process where you use the harness less and booster more as the kid gets more ready, until they're ready 100% of the time (even when asleep.)

Here is a link to a photobucket account that has more pictures of the van and carseats.

One more addition to this post. Anne wants everyone to know that proper seatbelt fit matters. With her help, I have posted information on seabelt fit here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Graco Smart Seat, forward facing

Here is a side view of Sofi riding in the seat forward facing. She uses it on harness position 5 (out of 6)

Here is a front view of Sofi, harness position 5. I'm not really a fan of how high the headrest is. It looks like it needs to be lowered.

The harness is connected to the headrest. So if you raise and lower 1, you raise and lower the other. Here is how Sofi fits in harness position 4. The headrest looks much better.....

But the harness is below her shoulders :(