Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Car Seats and Taxi Cabs: Lessons Learned for Safely Transporting Your Children in the City

Installing Car Seats Can be Frustrating for Parents
Installing Car Seats Can be Frustrating for Parents
**Sponsored event**
Editor's Note: NYC Dads Group host educational workshops on important topics to help us become better and well informed parents. During National Child Passenger Safety Week, we hosted our latest workshop on car seat safety and safely transporting our children in the city, sponsored by Britax. Thanks to NYC Dads Group member Jeff Chew for this informative post presenting the highlights from the discussion. -L.S.
Did you know that research studies revealed 3 out of 4 child car seats are either not installed correctly or being used properly (child not harnessed in properly)
Last month was National Child Passenger Safety Month, so the NYC Dads Group took the opportunity to put together a car seat safety / safely transporting your children in the city workshop for dads to learn what we can do to keep our most precious cargo as safe as they can be. After all, parents get frustrated with car seat installation so this was a great way to address our questions, concerns, and frustrations. Our group has had a consistently great partnership with Britax for multiple events that focused on varying topics of awareness and social responsibility, and this workshop proved to be no different. We had the pleasure of receiving a vast amount of knowledge regarding child passenger safety from Britax Child Passenger Safety (CPS) advocate, Sarah Tilton.
Dads Getting "Child Passenger Safety 101"
Dads Getting "Child Passenger Safety 101"
The evening workshop covered many topics, as well as answered a number of our questions. Here are some of the big takeaways:

Rear Facing

Best practice dictates that a child should stay rear facing until at least age of 2 or they outgrow the car seat they are in. In the American Academy of Pediatrics technical paper, it is determined that it is 5 times safer riding rear facing than forward facing. Frontal impacts are the most common type of motor vehicle crashes. When impact happens, the car seat will want to move towards the point of impact. During that movement forward is where the most force is being applied to the child's body. While rear facing, their head, neck and spine are all cradled in the car seat as it moves towards the point of impact. Children's skeletal system does not completely ossify until it is around two years of age. Anything beyond two years, we are giving them additional time to strengthen their skeletal system. For adults, the most common type of injury in this type of crash is whiplash. The same type of force to a small body is very detrimental, and can be fatal.
Typically, laws dictate that you can turn a child's seat forward facing at around one year and twenty pounds. However, it's best to keep them rear facing as long as you can. In Sweden, it is actually required to have the child rear facing until the age of 4.
If the child's feet are touching the back seat, it shouldn't matter and the child can still remain rear facing. There are many more documented injuries for forward facing children than rear facing. Especially in smaller cars, when a child is forward facing, consider the amount of distance it is for the child's head to reach the back of the seat in front of them. There are more documented head and facial injuries when the child is forward facing, and no documented leg injuries when the child is rear facing.


All seats are labeled with a height and weight maximum. When a child is rear facing, they outgrow the seat when they either a) exceed the weight limit of the seat, or b) the top of the head has less than 1 inch of space from the top of the shell. During impact, the child's body will ride up the seat a little bit. You never want the head to come out of the top and should always be protected by the shell.


As New Yorkers, this is one of the hot topics on our minds. Based on New York State law, Taxis are exempt from child requirements of being seated in a car seat. That said, these are things to consider when making the decision to have your child ride in a taxi without a car seat:
  • Bottom line: THERE IS NO SAFE, RECOMMENDED WAY to take a Taxi cab with your child, unless they are secure in a car seat in the Taxi.
  • Never put a child between you and a seat belt. In a crash, the retractor of that seat belt will lock, and the weight of your body will crush your child between the seat belt and your body.
  • If the child is in your lap, your child will become a flying object in a crash.
  • Adult seat belts are designed and tested for the 5th percentile female (weighing approximately 108 pounds), up to the 95th percentile male. Anyone smaller than the 5th percentile female will not receive protection from an adult seat belt, which includes your child


Airlines typically allow you to have your child in your lap up to the age of 2. However, this is not recommended for the same reasons as holding your child in your lap in a motor vehicle. In cases where turbulence is high, objects can be flying around in the cabin, including your child. Some airline pilots can even tell stories where turbulence was so bad that beverage carts were on the ceiling! Therefore, it is recommended to bring your car seat and have your child safely strapped in.
  • Request for discounted tickets for your child and their car seat
  • Fly red eyes (early in the morning or late at night)
  • Do not flying during hours where business people travel

Buying Used Car Seats

One of the key things to know about car seats is that each seat has an expiration date and recommended life span. Depending on manufacturer, this can range from 8-10 years. Manufacturers determine the expiration based on material selection, which includes what type of plastic it is made out of. These plastics are selected based on the molding process (injection molding, blown molding, etc), and UV protection added into the plastic. Companies test their seats by placing them in environmental chambers and accelerating the aging to simulate a lifespan of many years. A span of a few weeks in this chamber can be equivalent to 9 years. Once the seat is out of the environmental chamber, they are put on a sled test to test their performance in an accident.
The federal standard has changed 3 times in the last decade and is ready to change again. This means that every time the performance requirements have gotten better. Therefore, it is not the best solution to purchase an older car seat that is close to or past its expiration. "Just like you buy a new cellular telephone every few years because of advanced technology...many parents buy new car seats because of new technology.
Another thing to note is that just like air bags, car seats have a one time use once it has been in an accident. Thus would add an additional concern when purchasing a used seat. Make sure you know the person you are purchasing from, and if they are honest when telling you that the car seat has not been previously in an accident.

And other good things to know

  • Latch vs. Seat belt installation? One is not any safer than the other, as long as either are installed as instructed
  • Over tightening a car seat can be an issue. In a motor vehicle crash, it is necessary for the car seat to have some give in order to absorb some of the force, otherwise it would be similar to it being on a hard floor. The seat should however not be able to move more than an inch in any direction when installed.
  • For rear facing, the harness height should be at or slightly below their shoulders


At the end of the workshop, Sarah was able to give away the floor model Britax car seats that she used in her presentation through a raffle. My wife and I were lucky enough to win the Britax Frontier 90! We will definitely make good use of the seat when our son is ready for it.
Overall, the workshop was incredibly informative, and I can safely say that all of the dads (and my wife) had plenty to take away from this amazing workshop. Hopefully some of the tips above have been as helpful for you as they were for the parents in our group. And as Sarah suggested, if you have any questions on seat safety, the best way is to ask the manufacturer of your child's car seat.

Bio: Jeff Chew is an active member of the NYC Dads Group. He is a Presentation Layer Architect at Razorfish, and lives in Manhattan with his wife and almost one-year-old son.

**Disclosure Note: This was a paid, sponsored event with Britax / BOB. We limit our advertising to relevant partners that offer products and services we believe in and use ourselves.  We are not experts on car seat safety or transporting our children in the city.  We are simply restating important information learned in our recent Brtiax workshop.  Opinions expressed are our own.


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