Where should a parent go and who should a parent talk to get to accurate car seat information?
We all want to keep our kids as safe as possible. And while we think we’re doing this car seat thing right, we hear that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly. So maybe our car seat isn’t as right as we might think.
So who can parents turn to for car seat information?
We would love to say that doctors are a good resource about car seats. Many pediatricians do offer car seat advice and information at well-child exams. The challenge is, and we experienced this with our doctors, the advice and information they give isn’t always up to date or best practice. I can’t tell you how many times we heard parents tell us in the past, “but my doctor said I needed to turn my baby around when he turned one.”
In general, doctors are well versed in medicine but are not car seat experts.
The fire station has long been the go-to place to get help with your car seat. And those helpful firefighters will often still assist by installing your seat for you “firefighter tight”, which means you’ll lift the whole car with the seat if you try to move it. :-)
However, not all firefighters are trained in car seat safety and, if they were at one point, are not necessarily up to date with their training. In trying to help, they may be putting themselves at risk for liability and parents may be getting misinformed. It’s not necessarily the case any more that you can visit your local fire station for car seat help. Many fire departments have moved away from having trained Child Passenger Safety Technicians on duty. Some fire departments don’t do any car seat checks at all any more. Some have a few firefighters or public information officers who are trained and do car seat checks at certain times.
In general, firefighters are well versed in putting out car fires but are not car seat experts.
You have a police officer living next door so obviously he’s the right person for the job right? Not so much. Some police officers or personnel are trained in Child Passenger Safety, but not all are. And those who are may not keep up to date with it. Even traffic officers are not necessarily the most informed in regard to car seats and how they are supposed to be used.
In general, police officers are well versed in “catching the bad guys” but are not car seat experts.
Again this seems like an obvious place to get information especially if you just had a baby and are ready to take your newborn home. My experience in the hospital was a nurse checking to make sure I had a car seat and put my baby in it prior to getting in the car and that was it. And some nurses out of the kindness of their hearts and desire to help, may give some advice. Many hospitals actually insist that nurses NOT help parents put their child in a car seat because of potential liability issues. Though some hospitals, like the one I used to work for in Denver, do hire CPS techs to work with new parents and teach the parents how to install the car seat in the car and how to put their new baby in the car seat properly.
In general, hospital staff and nurses are well versed in taking care of patients but are not car seat experts.
Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Child Passenger Safety Technician?
It is best to find a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. CPS techs take a 3 to 4-day class. They learn the ins and outs of car seats, installation options, vehicle differences, harnessing procedures, etc. They have a lot of hands-on exercises where an instructor checks to make sure they understand what they are doing and why. And there is a test you must pass in order to get certified. And to remain certified you have to take 6 continuing education hours, work a car seat check or information event and have various types of car seat installations checked by an instructor every two years. Oh and pay a re-certification fee.
In general, Child Passenger Safety Technicians are not well versed in handcuffing people or putting out flames but are car seat experts.
When you want car seat advice and information, who are you going to call? You call 1-866-SEATCHECK to find a local tech or CPS check-up station. Or find a local CPS tech here.
A CPS tech might also be a firefighter or police officer or nurse or doctor. But firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses are not necessarily certified CPS technicians. CPS techs also could be another civil service personnel, social worker, stay at home mom or some other concerned volunteer. You never know. Just be sure to know that they are a certified CPS tech.
*We are still in the process of educating all of these types of people about the Tummy Shield and the role it plays in safer driving during pregnancy. We have a long way to go. The people in these occupations may or may not have heard of it yet.
We’d love to hear from you. Share in our comments below your experiences with getting car seat information from any of these types of people.
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 August 2015. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.