Children’s car safety seats: Are you using yours correctly?


baby in a car seat

Are you using your child’s car safety seat properly? A 2016 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests you might not be. More than half the car seats looked at in the report were improperly installed or incorrectly used. Similar studies conducted independently showed even higher levels of misuse. While some of the errors found in these studies were small, others were large enough to negate the safety of the seat entirely. As Miriam Manary, senior engineering research associate at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, told the New York Times:

“… somewhere around 35 percent of it is gross misuse where they’re not going to get any protection from that system — things like not securing the child restraint into the vehicle or not harnessing the child in the child restraint system.”

Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death in children, and forty percent of children killed in automobile crashes were unrestrained. Correctly using a child’s car safety seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by more than half. The child safety group Safe Kids Worldwide offers free children’s car seat checks. Look at their website to see if they’re sponsoring an event near you. If there are no safety checks nearby, Safe Kids Worldwide also offers a list of technicians qualified to check that your children’s car safety seat is properly installed and that you’re using it right.

Here are some pointers to help make sure your children are getting the safest ride out of their car seats:

Don’t forget the top tether. All children’s car seats have at least three anchor straps. Some have five. It’s easy to forget that important top strap.

Check the expiration date. Like all good things, children’s car seats won’t last forever. Wear and tear, exposure to heat and UV light — all these things take their toll. Most convertible car seats are good for 10 years; most infant seats for 6. Check your warranty card to see when yours expires.

Been in a wreck? Throw it out. A damaged car seat is an ineffective car seat. If you’ve been in a serious accident while your child’s car seat was in the car with you, maybe toss it and get a new one.

And finally, some good news: more expensive doesn’t always mean better. All children’s car safety seats have to meet the same federal standards. They’re tested by the NHTSA to make sure that all models on the market conform to those guidelines. Some models may be more convenient, more versatile, better looking, or have a better cup holder – but they’re still providing the same baseline safety features.

So keep these tips in mind, do your homework, and before you take a spin, strap ‘em in!

Parents of toddlers take note: Prevent tip-over accidents in your home


child at risk of a furniture tipover

Can you spot what’s wrong with the picture in this post? If you have young children or know someone who does, the photo should set off warning alarms – but unfortunately, many people just aren’t cued in to the danger of furniture tipovers. For example, there was an important recall notice from IKEA that you might have missed over the holidays. After an 8th child died in a tip-over accident, IKEA re-issued its recall notice for Malm dressers. A 2-year old California boy died after being trapped under an unanchored 3-drawer chest.

Furniture tipovers pose a risk that goes well beyond IKEA. Every year in the U.S., more than 25,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for tip-over accidents and about one child dies every 2-3 weeks from these types of preventable home accidents. Most tipovers – about 80% – involve young children, from 1 to 5 years old. They happen in bedrooms and living rooms and involve chests, drawers, bookshelves, armoires, TVs and other unanchored furnishings tipping onto, trapping and crushing children. The little boy in the photo above is in a hazardous situation. A post on the CPSC On Safety blog explains the importance of anchoring children’s furniture.

In this video clip, a Mom speaks about what happened to her son Shane and offers advice to parent so that they can avoid such a tragedy.

You can also see a video of a near-miss involving twin boys who suffered a tip-over but fortunately escaped serious injury. The parents posted the chilling video online to warn other parents by showing how quickly and easily such incidents can occur when furnishings are unanchored.

We’ve posted on the topic of tip-overs several times. For additional information see our past posts and these other helpful links:

Seasonal Toy Safety Tips and 10 Worst Toys for 2017


children playing with toys to illustrate toy safety

It’s not all fun and games when it comes to toys. In 2016, there were 174,100 children under the age of 15 treated at emergency departments for toy-related injuries; seven children died. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently issued its seasonal toy safety alerts.

Here are their 2017 safety recommendations:

  • Check the label: Choose age appropriate toys by reading the age label on the toy. Children younger than 3 should not have access to toys with small parts, which can cause choking. Also avoid marbles and small balls for children under 3.
  • Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, supervision is key along with proper safety gear that includes helmets. Helmets should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit. Avoid riding a scooter on a street or roadway with other motor vehicles.
  • Hoverboards: Although not considered a toy, hoverboards should be compliant with UL 2272 safety standard.
  • Be careful with magnets: High powered magnet sets are dangerous and should be kept away from children under 14. Building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.

The 10 Worst Toys for 2017

The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) also recently released its 10 Worst Toys for 2017 list – check out the slide show with photos so you can recognize the toys, some of which would definitely have appeal. It’s particularly important to be alert about avoiding recalled toys online. The W.A.T.C.H. report says that the Internet is like the Wild West when it comes to outlawed toys and that shoppers should not assume that any safeguards are in place:

Regulations and safety protocols for e-commerce transactions are often nonexistent or inadequate. Consumer-to-consumer “second-hand sales”— which are inconsistently monitored, if monitored at all — provide new opportunities for recalled toys to surface.

W.A.T.C.H. offers a list of Toy Hazards to Watch Out For as well as recent Consumer Product Safety Commission Recalls.

Pumpkins, perils & more: Have a fun, safe Halloween


halloween pumpkins in front of a scary house

It’s the season of the pumpkin! Everyone seems to love pumpkin flavored foods, and there may be a reason for that. Psychologist think that the smell  of pumpkin spice produces a nostalgic feeling that brings us right back to Grandma’s house.

But have we gone too far? Eater magazine designates 65 Pumpkin Spice Foods That Have No Business Being Pumpkin Spiced. It’s pretty subjective – some people just can’t get enough.

Apparently, animals of all species have caught the human pumpkin craze, too – here’s how zoos around the world are celebrating Halloween with pumpkins for their residents.

Some people prefer to carve pumpkins rather than to eat them. Want to carve some pumpkins that will be the envy and fright of the neighborhood? Here are a few ideas for extreme Halloween pumpkins from Tom Narvone of  ExtremePumpkins.com. One of our other favorite pro carvers is Ray Villafane – you can see a few samples of his work and get a few tips in the clips below.

Remember to carve safely – use kits or patterns to make things easier and make carving an adult activity. We think the scariest place to be on Halloween is the emergency room.

Here are some other Halloween safety tips:

Home Safety

  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
  • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
  • Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
  • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
  • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.

Kid Safety

  • Consider parties and visits to charity based Haunted Houses as an alternative to Trick or Treating
  • Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or light-reflective tape to their costumes.
  • Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
  • Ensure costumes and masks don’t impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
  • Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft – no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
  • Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
  • Don’t let kids walk while eating candy on a stick is very dangerous if they trip.
  • Don’t let kids eat homemade treats unless made by someone you know very well
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
  • Kids shouldn’t enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
  • Kids without adults should keep in groups
  • Walk on sidewalks. Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
  • Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.

Pet safety

  • Don’t forget about your pets – they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don’t frighten or nip at your guests.
  • Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
  • More: Halloween Perils For Pets … and People, Too

Protect your kids from electrical shocks


child playing with electrical outlet

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that every year, about 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick keys, pens, paperclips and other small items into electrical outlets, Many parents put covers or caps on the outlets, but studies show this is not a particularly effective deterrent to little fingers – a study by Temple University found that 100% of all 2-4 year olds were able to remove one type of plastic outlet cap within 10 seconds.

There’s a better solution called tamper resistant receptacles, or TRRs, that offer a simple, affordable, reliable and permanent solution to help protect kids. They look just like ordinary outlets but are equipped with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates to close off the opening slots. Since 2008, the National Electrical Code has required them to be installed in all new home construction – but many older homes do not have them. If you have children, you may want to consider converting to them – but TRRs should only be installed license electricians.