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Is your child in the right car seat? Probably not. Fix it now.

I am furious and heartbroken all at the same time this morning. When I logged on the Internet this morning, the first article on Yahoo.com’s main page just ruined my entire day.

This mother tragically lost her child because her child was not properly restrained in his car seat. Something so simple. Something so easy. Something so many people are not aware of could have saved this poor life. It kills me. My heart is breaking for a complete stranger this morning.

By law, at least in North Carolina, a child is required to be in a rear facing car seat until they turn one. Although that is the law in the state in which I live, other states have laws that require children to remain rear-facing for far longer because experts recommend that a child remain rear facing for as long as possible. Age does not determine if your child gets to be forward facing. A child’s weight and height does. Each car seat is different. Each car seat has different regulations on how your child should sit in the seat and if it should be rear facing or forward facing.

ONE IN FOUR CAR SEATS Are INSTALLED INCORRECTLY. Knowing that alarming statistic, that 75 percent of car seats are wrong, how could you not want to ensure yours is right?!

Please don’t assume because your child is one, or because your friend’s child is forward-facing, that your child should be too, because chances are, they shouldn’t. A child in a rear facing seat is 4 times safer than a child in a forward facing seat when it comes to a collision. FOUR TIMES SAFER. I have no idea that parents can know that fact and ignore it. I have no idea why any parent would want to risk their child’s safety.

I completely understand, that in a lot of cases, like the one of the mother in the article posted above, the problem is lack of education on the topic. Since becoming a mother I have become a car seat nazi. I guess you could say that I am kind of obsessed with it. But when I read articles like the one above… who can blame me? Today, a mother is without her son because she didn’t know the facts. It is that simple.

I have heard some parents say that their child is too big to be rear facing because their feet touch the back of the seat. My sister was one example. But that just simply isn’t true. It is perfectly safe and expected for your child’s feet to be rear facing with their feet touching the seat. It is going to happen and is totally ok. It will keep your child safe. Just do it.

Please educate yourself. Please know what is best for your child. Please don’t let an easy fix take your child’s life.  There are tons of resources, a great one is Safe Kids. Not only does their website have a ton of information, but they also have resources to find car seat technicians who will check your car seat for free. They are certified and can tell you what is best for your child and your vehicle. It doesn’t cost you anything to get it checked, but if you don’t, it could cost you your child’s life.

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So if we are Facebook friends, and you post a picture of your child in a car seat and it is incorrect. Chances are I am probably going to step up and say something, because the mother in this article wished someone would have done that for her.

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Top 4 reasons you should NEVER buy or sell a used car seat

Your child’s car seat is probably the only thing that you will buy that has the potential to save your child’s life. You can get a basic standard model seat for less than $80. While I understand how tempting it is to go to a garage sale and buy a used seat that is half the price, I would strongly recommend against it.  

1) Car Seats Expire. 

A lot of people either do not know that car seats expire, or think it is all some hoax to encourage people to buy more seats. Well, you are welcomed to think that, but I think you’re nuts. 

Expiration dates are given to car seats for numerous reasons. 1) The plastic used when making the car seat wears down over time. The plastic gets brittle as it gets older, so the seat could break if it too old and you happen to get in an accident. Doesn’t it make sense that the sun and heat of your car can wear down the plastic and make the seat not as strong as intended? I think that is common sense. 

Often times, car seats come with special flame resistant materials on the straps that secure your child. Over time, that material wears off, making the seat less safe. This film on the straps is also the reason why you should never remove the straps from the seat and wash them in the washing machine. Instead, wipe it down with a wet wipe. 

This video is the perfect example of why car seats expire. 

2) Original paperwork. 

No car seat was created equal. Just because you have installed a car seat before, does NOT mean you can install them all. They are all made different and come with different parts and pieces. Nine times out of 10, if you buy a car seat from a friend or a garage sale, the seat probably does not have the original paperwork showing how to install the seat or how to use the additions that came when the seat was first purchased. Without this information, you could be missing crucial details that could save your child’s life. 

You need the original paperwork. More concerning than not having the original paperwork or parts and pieces, if that you have no way of knowing if the seat has been in a previous accident. A car seat is not designed to sustain multiple accidents. So if they car seat has already been in an accident, the materials are not strong enough to survive another one. Unfortunately, there is not a Carfax for car seat to give you an accident report. Yet another reason you are better off just getting a new one! If you do for some reason, still buy a used seat, you can call the manufactures to get a copy of the manual. 

 3) Car seats are recalled. 

As much as I hate to say it, sometimes seats end up at garage sales or given away because the seat was recalled by the manufacturer. Some parents may acknowledge the seat is not safe for their own child, but think they would be doing someone a favor by still giving it away. And while I can appreciate the thought that a car seat is better than no car seat, you should still be cautious.  Organizations likes the CDC, or your local health department keep a running list of car seats that have been recalled. You might have seen in the news where Graco recalled a ton of seats because of a faulty belt. I think it is safe to say that out of those thousands of seats that were recalled, not all of them made it back to Graco or were properly disposed of, and instead someone else is using it today. 

 4) New Technology.  

Have you ever looked up the evolution of the car seat? They have changed so much since they were first introduced. The first model car seats were introduced not for safety, but instead to let the child see out the window for a more pleasurable driving experience. So often I hear people say, “Well when I was growing up we didn’t have car seats, we didn’t even have seat belts.” I want to punch these people between the eye. Before safety standards for vehicles and the mandate for car seats, the cars we drove were a lot different. Do you think in 50 years, a 2014 Chevy Cavilers is going to be preserved and sitting in a collector’s garage? I think not. Cars are not built the same today. Back then, cars were luxury item that were built to last. They could crash and barely even have a ding on them. Today, you brush up against the curve and the car is totaled. We live in a different time. Cars today also run a little faster, and have considerably more drivers on the roads than back then.  

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A good example of how car seat technology changes  is that in 2002 car seats were not equipped with Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH). Now however, they are a standard feature in nearly all car seats.

 The PROPER way to dispose of a car seat is to rip it to shreds. Make sure that you leave nothing left in a car seat so if someone happened to find it at the dump, they would not be tempted to get it. When there are so many different experts and organizations screaming about the safety of these seats, are you really willing to risk your child’s safety to save a few bucks? 

 I understand hardship all too well. I know that sometimes life throws up curve balls and sometimes we just cannot make ends meet. I have been there. If you find yourself in that situation, know that events like the upcoming one in my area, Buckle up, Baby! and local health departments will provide NEW car seats for FREE or at very little cost. And if you still cannot get one, message me. I do not care who you are or where you are. I do not need to know your story  or even why you need it. Just send me a message that you need a car seat, and I will personally get you a new one. Our children’s safety is just too important.

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Writing, writing, and more writing, this time for car seat safety

As if the fact that I am a full-time copywriter, basically a full-time newspaper reporter and then freelance for another newspaper wasn’t enough, my motherly instinct has driven me to organize a child seat safety event. In the last week, I have basically beasted it and gotten all local law enforcement, the local hospital and a ton of local businesses to participate. So that is encouraging. I have a couple of months to put it all together, but have been working non-stop to get it going and build momentum. 

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75% of car seats are installed wrong. That is terrifying. I even had Turner’s seat in wrong until I started researching it! I wanted to fix this and work to educate other parents. So i began working to plan an event on April 5. I am still working on a catchy name other than, Child Seat Safety Event (I welcome suggestions) and a catchy slogan. But I hope it becomes something that is not only helpful, but something that can be repeated often. This is the most recent type of marketing write up I have done for it. Feel free to tell me what you guys think. 

Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, and Highlands Police, as well as Angel Medical Center have all signed on to be a part of a countywide Child Seat Safety Event in Macon County scheduled for April 5. 

Currently, the event is being planned to be held at the Fun Factory Parking lot from 11-2. The different departments have individuals who are certified in the installation of car seats. There will be a check point set up for parents to drive through to get their seats checked. 3 out 4 car seats are installed incorrectly. That means 75% of children are riding in cars and are not securely strapped in. We want to change that. 

 The task force working on organizing the event will handle all of the planning. We are looking toward the business community to help us in offering incentives for parents to come to the event. Some parents may have no idea their seats are installed incorrectly. I am that parent, which is why I wanted to organize this event. Because they may think their seats are installed correctly, we want to offer other incentives such as discounts to local businesses to help draw them in. 

A couple ways business and individuals can help:

 The big push we are doing with businesses is for the week following April 5, which would be April 6-12, we are asking that businesses who are interested in participating sign on to offer parents who come to the event a 10% discount. Parents who come will be given a business card that says something to the effect, “I got my seat checked.” The card will feature a list of businesses who agree, so parents will know for that week, they can get discounts at those locations. Not only does this give the parent an incentive, but it also encourages them to shop at local businesses. 

 Other businesses are looking to sponsor promotion materials for the event such as stickers. We want to have stickers made for the children that come. In addition to the stickers, depending on what we get from the community, we may make an entire goody bag for children. 

 I have had individuals and organizations contact me about donating car seats. Car seats cost about $60 each. If law enforcement finds that a child has outgrown a seat, or the seat is expired or on the recall list, by law, they are not allowed to let that parent leave using that car seat. So we will need car seats to offer to replace them. There are state programs that offer seats as well, but those seats are generally limited. Macon Program for Progress plans to but a car seat, the best kind possible, to do a raffle for parents. 

Other organizations or businesses could consider sponsoring hotdogs or waters to offer to parents as an added incentive. The fun factory will be open and are looking to either offer free play time for people that Saturday or a discount to their restaurants as well. 

 We want it to be a community effort. We would like for all volunteers for that day to have shirts so they are easily identified. The shirts will also feature names of all businesses who donated or have agreed to participate. 

We welcome any and all help. So if any of these ideas do not seem to fit what you are looking for, and you have your own idea, I would love to hear it. If you do not think you can offer something and just want to help promote the event with a flyer in your business, we would love that as well.  

I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have and set up a time to meet to discuss this further if you would like. Thank you so much for your interest.