May 9, 2012
The author’s daughter, Emily. Click image to enlarge
|Auto Tech: Child Safety in Cars
Article and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Child Seat Installation Clinic
In every vehicle I drive, one of the aspects I test and make note of is the ease of installation of my daughter’s car seat. I make no secret of what a pain child-seat installation can be (low roofs, low back-of-seat tether anchors), and having to move the child seat from car to car every week may fall under the category of #firstworldproblems (look it up on twitter if you’re up for a good laugh), so it’s a problem I’m glad to have, but it annoys me nonetheless. However, it doesn’t change the very real concern I’ve had for some time that I was potentially doing something wrong on any given week depending on the car, or doing something wrong every week because I just didn’t understand the admittedly painful instruction manual.
Well, there’s a cure for people like me, and for this summer, it is free if you live in the GTA. General Motors is sponsoring a series of free child-seat installation clinics by Baby Car Seat Experts and Wee Welcome, held at various GM dealerships around the GTA. The clinics are open to owners of all makes and models, not just GMs. Wee Welcome is a popular parenting site, and Baby Car Seat Experts Inc. is a service that will come to your doorstep, inspect your installation, correct any errors you might have made in the installation, and train you on how to correctly install your child or children’s car seats, from rear-facing infant seats to convertibles or forward-facing toddler seats. This type of event is old hat for them as they also provide clinics for GTA car dealerships who
want to organize community events to give their customers the critical knowledge necessary to keep their most precious cargo safe.
Lio Perron, founder of Baby Car Seat Experts. Click image to enlarge
I spoke with Lio Perron, the founder of Baby Car Seat Experts, who established the company as a business, but with an equal aim to educate and train parents on seat installation. It was a two-fold solution to a busy family life with two young children and maintaining a two-income household with a viable business plan: “It’s not a glamourous business, but it gives me flexibility, something I never had before. Busy parents with tight schedules appreciate the safety and convenience our technicians deliver at their doorstep, at a time of their choosing.”
All his technicians are trained and certified by St. John Ambulance in proper car-seat installation, some with thousands of installations under their belt, and there is a constant need for this service. Field studies have shown that over 70 percent (namely a widely cited NHTSA study from 2004) of child seats are installed incorrectly, although many estimates are higher, including Lio’s, who estimates, based on his firsthand field experience, that it seems as high as 90.
For example, while my toddler’s forward-facing seat was installed correctly (woohoo!), the base of my daughter’s old rear-facing infant seat was not (I re-installed it as a test of my own skills — fail!). However, as mentioned above, I often switch vehicles from week to week, and there is no doubt in my mind that due to various seat options and angles, I have installed her current seat incorrectly at various times.
The key, in general, is to have the base of a toddler’s spine at 45 degrees relative to the ground, so that the five-point harness can absorb the weight evenly in the event of a collision. One risk from a seat that is too far reclined is having the child sliding down the seat and primarily into the lower centre strap and risking any male children’s reproductive health (Dads always cringe at that risk). One neat trick they showed me to check the correct angle (seat markings can be iffy at best) is to fold a bill on an angle and hold the folded edge against the lower seatback. The top of the bill should be parallel to the roof of the vehicle.