What Do Grandparents Need to Know About Car Seats?
When grandparents transport children, they want to keep those kids safe too. But they don’t always know the best way to do that. After all 20 or 30 years ago transporting children in cars looked a lot different than it does today.
Do you remember riding in the car as a child? Did you ride in a car seat? When I was my older son’s age (8), I was rolling around in the hatchback of an RX7. My older brother (10) was in the front seat. Now a days we know neither one of those is safe. My son rides in a RideSafer because he still doesn’t fit the seat belt correctly, and he is above average in height for his age. My kids know they won’t be in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.
But unless we teach our parents, they don’t know about all the changes in the car seat world.
A Look at Grandparents Driving Children and Car Seats
In a study published in 2012 in the Accident Analysis and Prevention, “Grandparents and Child Passenger Safety,” researchers wanted to compare child passenger safety practices of grandparents versus parents and determine grandparents’ opinions on car safety seats, barriers to use and ways to transport grandchildren safely. The study included 1,758 parents transporting 2,713 children and 284 grandparents transporting 391 grandchildren.
Here are some of the findings:
- Most drivers buckled up and used car seats
- 25% of parents and grandparents chose the incorrect seat to transport the child
- 68% had at least one harness-related error
- Grandparents were more likely to have loose a loose install
- Grandparents were more likely to have children younger than 13 in the front seat
While grandparents in the focus group understood the need to use car seats and keep their grandchildren buckled, many said car seats were hard to use. Many of the grandparents also had a physical challenges such as arthritis, decreased strength or vision problems which impaired their ability to install or use car seats.
Researchers at the Children Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania did a long term study of grandparents driving children. The study concluded that the rate of injury to children passengers was less with grandparent-drivers than with parent-drivers. The researchers suggested grandparents may be nervous about driving their precious cargo and so drive more cautiously to offset age-related driving challenges. Also, older drivers avoid freeways and peak traffic times, avoid driving at night or bad weather in comparison to parent-drivers. This all reduces the number of crashes.
A Little Education Can Go a Long Way
Sometimes grandparents just need to be informed by either parents (assuming they know best practices) or a Child Passenger Safety Technician. Several parents have shared with us concern about talking to their parents about this topic. They say their parents don’t always listen. I’ve found instead of just telling grandparents how to do it right, it helps to share why it’s each part is important. For instance:
- The car seat needs to be installed tightly (less than one inch side to side at the belt path) because having it tight minimizes forward movement of the seat, preventing lower extremity injuries.
- The harness needs to be tight on the child because if the straps are loose on the child the child could sustain increased spinal injury from too much forward movement of the head at the least and at the most ejected out of the seat.
- Children need to be in a seat appropriate to their age, size and weight because each stage of seat is specifically engineered to keep that size child as safe as possible.
Sometimes you’ll need to do the install for the grandparent. Sometimes you’ll need to find a restraint that is easier for grandparents to use whether just for it’s simplicity or because physically they can correctly use the restraint.
RideSafer Travel Vests for children who are at least 3-years-old, for example, can be a good alternative for grandparents. Parents can teach their older children how to buckle themselves correctly into the car with the vest. (Our daughter could buckle herself in at age 4.) With a look, grandparents can see the seat belt correctly threaded through the guides on the vest and be on their way.
If grandparents have a hard time unbuckling the children from a traditional car seat there is a product called the UnbuckleMe. You hold it in your hand and use it to easily push in the red button on the harness buckle.
We want to know, do your parents take your children in the car? Do they follow your recommendations? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2019 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.
We originally published this post in November 2014. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.Source: Grandparents and child passenger safety. O’Neil J, Bull MJ, Slaven JE, Talty JL. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2012; 49C: 354-359.