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When it Comes to Car Seats, Almost Isn't Good Enough

I am not paranoid. I am not hyper vigilant. I am not the safety police. And my suggestion that people make sure their car seats are installed and used properly isn't something that should be met with annoyance or an eye roll. Car seats save lives.
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cute little boy passenger in a...
cute little boy passenger in a...

It is not very often that I stand on my soap box, but every now and again I see a real-life illustration of why I care about some things so deeply that it reinforces that I'm not crazy and I'm not "hyper vigilant," as I've been called. I just believe in taking easy and necessary precautions to keep my children safe.

I cannot count the number of times I have had people, some close to me, dismiss my feelings on car seat safety. I have often heard the ol' "I didn't have X and I survived" line. I have also heard "I'm a safe driver. I can prevent accidents."

They are called accidents for a reason.

It could happen to anyone. And after reading this blog post of how a family narrowly escaped injury, it hit it close to home.

"I was doing just under the speed limit (yeah, I'm that kind of driver -- sorry!) and going through an empty intersection, we were smashed into by another driver doing almost double the speed limit."

How can you prevent that? How can you avoid that?

"There are no skid marks, no signs he saw us, tried to stop... or even looked up from his phone."

You can't avoid that. The best you can do is protect yourself as best you can to survive it.

I am often told by family members that I make the car seat straps too tight and the children are uncomfortable. I will let the other blogger, the one who survived a serious crash, explain why I don't care if my kids whine that the straps are tight.

"As always, my daughter hollered that the straps of her car seat were too tight, asked to have her arms to have 'more space'. My alter ego, Mean Mom -- she is immune to tears/crying/whining and can just do what has to be done, takes over here and squashes that small voice in my head that says I'm being to rough, that having the straps a bit looser might be more comfortable -- don't worry, that voice will never be heard again! If your child can talk, you know this feeling -- stick with your guns!!! Do.not.loosen the straps!!! Car seats are designed to be tight."

As long as their chests can rise and fall to breathe with ease, the straps are not too tight.

Car seats save lives. This not my opinion. This is something countless crash tests, both controlled and in every day life, have proven over and over again.

I am not paranoid. I am not hyper vigilant. I am not the safety police. And my suggestion that people make sure their car seats are installed and used properly isn't something that should be met with annoyance or an eye roll.

I'm the kind of parent who let my 22-month-old master the steep stair case in my new house by letting him climb them on his own (with me right behind him, but I didn't touch him unless he asked for help or seemed to need it). I am not petrified my child is going to hurt himself every minute of every day. I take (calculated) risks so that my kids learn how to do things safely for themselves. But car seat safety is on a whole other level. There are no calculated risks when it comes to car seats and there is no "almost" when it comes to it being done successfully. Almost, when it comes to car seats, is not good enough.

The seat being 'almost' secure enough, 'almost' upright or reclined enough, the chest clip 'almost' at arm pit level, is not good enough. And it's better to find that out from a manual or a website or a car seat clinic than on the road.

This blogger's children survived, in part due to their mother being vigilant about car safety. They story would have ended quite different and much more tragically, had she not been.

Celia, who posted the photographer's blog, put this forward on it. She said it better than I ever could. Using a car seat safely is not that hard. And it is more than worth the effort.

"Tether your forward-facing seats (even if they're in tight without being). Keep your child rear-facing as long as your car seat allows. Make sure the straps are tight enough (even if your child complains, like mine). Position the chest clip at armpit level. Make sure your car seats are installed correctly (read the manual again if you're unsure, and find a car seat tech to help you if you're still unsure after!). Adjust the straps as they grow (when RF the straps should come from under the shoulders, for FF, from above). I'm as free range a parent as any, but car seat safety is not something to be taken lightly. It's fine if your child is not secured properly if you never get in an accident. But you just never know. This could be you tomorrow. Take your time and make sure your children are safe."

It's true that many children back when cars and car seats were less safe than they are now lived to tell the tale. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has heard that as a reason for not taking the importance of their proper installation and use more seriously.

Yes, you may have been lucky enough to survive. The many kids who didn't can't raise their hand and say "but I didn't."

Written by Leslie Kennedy for

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