Category Archives: Car Seats

Car seat safety check this Saturday

Wondering if your car seat still fits your child? Confused about when to turn your child from rear-facing to front facing? Need the eye of a trained professional car seat fitter to make sure your safety system works the way it should?

On Saturday, March 24, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Car Seat Check Event takes place at the Target store located at  1525 W. Power Road in Mesa.

Cardon Children’s Medical Center Safety and Injury Prevention staff will have 100 car seats to give out to families who need one.

Four out of five car seats are used incorrectly, according to the American Automobile Association. Don’t make these tragic mistakes!

Families can have a child’s car seat recertified, learn how to install a seat correctly or get a free car seat.

More RAK Resources on vehicle safety seats

Watch this video to see what a safety check event looks like:



Why carpooling parents skip booster seats

Plenty of parents drive children other than their own in carpools, but according to new study findings published in the February issue of Pediatrics, they don’t consistently use booster seats for these “guest passengers.”

In this particular study, about three-quarters of the 4- to 8-year-olds using a seat

Courtesy U.S. Dept. of Transportation

belt were doing so in accordance with the laws in their state. But state laws don’t always comply with the national recommendations.

National recommendations encourage the use of booster seats until a child reaches 57 inches, the average height of an 11-year-old.

State booster seat laws were associated with higher safety seat use, regardless of the carpooling factor, even though half of parents admit to not knowing the age cited in their state booster seat law. Another 20 percent guessed incorrectly.

So, take a guess. What’s the law for booster seats in Arizona?

Arizona is one of only 3 states that currently does not have a law requiring children to be restrained in a booster seat, says Sara Bode, M.D., a pediatrician and Arizona AAP member who practices at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Current law only requires car seats for children 5 years or younger.

Part of the lower incidence of use may be due to a lack of state booster seat laws, says Bode. There is a current house bill this legislative session that has passed initial committee hearings. House Bill 2452 would mandate booster seats for children up to age 8 or until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Booster seats are just as important as infant and toddler seats, says Bode. They allow correct positioning of the seat belt across the chest and hips.

Kids can easily slip out of a seat belt during a crash or can suffer serious or fatal injuries to the neck and abdomen. In her work at Phoenix Children’s, Bode has seen many children who have experienced trauma from a motor vehicle injury.

Don’t make these five tragic car seat mistakes!

“I personally have taken care of a family who suffered from a motor vehicle crash,” says Bode. “Their 5 year-old wasn’t properly restrained. As a result, she suffered a serious abdominal injury requiring surgery and a prolonged hospital stay.”

Kids who are seated in a booster seat in the rear of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash as compared to those using a seat belt alone, according to data gathered by SafeKidsUSA, a nationwide network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury.

Study authors conclude that social norms may play a big role in booster seat use, too. As far as carpools go, there are inherent difficulties with the transfer of car seats between parents and carpool drivers, says Bode. It’s just one more thing for parents to do during a busy time of the day.

How do we change the social norm?  Bode suggests that daycares and schools could play a large role in educating parents on the importance of use as well as providing  expectations for proper restraint, and a designated area to store booster seats during the school day.

Plenty of community resources are available to help parents use booster seats properly. Check out our RAK Car Seat Safety Local Resource Page here.

Raising Arizona Kids Safety Seat Resource page

Here’s a list of where to get help around the Valley for car seat safety checks, recalls, and other information on how to keep babies, toddlers, and older kids safe in vehicles.

Know of resources we’ve missed? Use the comments section and we’ll add to our list once we verify your suggestion. Thanks!


Cardon Children’s Medical Center Car Seat Safety Tips and email contact information for parents with questions

Phoenix Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention features the Car Seat Helper App; also more on their Kids Ride Safe program

AAA Arizona offers assistance from certified car seat technicians. Contact the AAA Traffic Safety Educator to schedule an appointment

National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) car seat safety inspection stations in the Greater Phoenix area

Valley Fire Departments: Links to individual station web site pages on car seat inspection and safety checks. Call first to make sure a certified technician will be on site:

Avondale Fire Department

Chandler Fire Department

Gilbert Fire Department

Mesa Fire Department

Peoria Fire Department

Phoenix Fire Department

Scottsdale Fire Department

Surprise Fire Department

Tolleson Fire Department

National Highway Traffic and Safety Association has the latest car seat recommendations for kids and updates on state-by-state laws

Safe Kids USA features research on car seats and placement and motor vehicle safety facts sheets.


Thanksgiving travel with kids? Stay safe

Are you traveling this week?

The American Automobile Association predicts an increase this year in the number of families who will be celebrating Thanksgiving away from home.

Travel can jumble regular routines  for young children and their parents. Changes in sleeping schedules and arrangements, more people staying in a house that may not have the same level of baby-proofing as yours, and plenty of opportunities for distraction can increase the risk of accidents.

Take a look at these five areas around the house to watch as you and your family celebrate this week:

The Kitchen:

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors along with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends keeping anything that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains away from the stovetop.

Always stay in the kitchen while cooking and turn off the stove if you must leave,even for a moment. Turn pan handles toward the back of the stove, and make sure to keep knives in a safe place.

Family room:

The NFPA reminds parents to never leave a child in a room alone with a candle or other fire source.

Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for families during the holiday season, according to Remove all partially empty glasses or cups as soon as guests are finished to prevent the chances that small children will imitate revelers by tasting an adult beverage.

It might be early for mistletoe, but even common house plants can poison young children. Other items can cause accidental poisoning that may not be in a childproof location. Make sure to take the number of the National Poison Center along, just in case: (800) 222-1222.

Bedrooms and Baths

Travel to relatives’ homes and hotels opens up the potential for babies to sleep in unsafe settings and increases the risk of death due to unsafe sleep, says a member of the Child Protection Team at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Recalled cribs and play yards can put baby at risk. If you choose to put a baby in the same bed with you, make sure you are aware of the risks.  Read more on safe sleep and co-sleeping from our RAK Archives.

Check under the sink in bathrooms for poisons, and use caution when bathing kids. Never leave small children alone near water.

Outside: pools and firepits

Out-of-town guests may not be aware of pool safety guidelines, so it is important to make sure they know to close gates when entering the pool area.

Remove any pool toys to improve safety and visibility around the pool. Be aware of anything a child could use to climb up on and over the pool fence.

Inspect fencing and gates to ensure that pool fencing isn’t damaged or deteriorated and that all latches and locks are working properly.

Remember that the “campfire in the back yard,” or firepit, can cause injury, too.


Installing a car seat in a car that is not your own can be tricky. Plan ahead if you are using a relative’s vehicle. Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Car Seat Helper App can provide tips on setting up your child’s seat in a make and model you are unfamiliar with.

The traveling with kids blog Delicious Baby has a list of tips for parents who choose to rent a car seat along with a rental car, as well as information on flying with car seats.

And, speaking of flying- check out the latest guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for traveling with babies and children.


Car seat confusion? There’s an app for that

Forward-facing, rear-facing, seat-belt placing…car seat safety can get very confusing. And the statistics back that up.

According to the  American Automobile Association (AAA),  four out of five car seats are used incorrectly. Read more on the five tragic mistakes parents and caregivers make when using vehicle safety seats.

Choosing and using the right car seat drastically reduces a child’s risk of injury or death. So the Injury Prevention team at Phoenix Children’s Hospital developed an app they hope will simplify the process.

The Car Seat Helper lets parents, healthcare professionals and caregivers know what to look for in a car seat or booster seat.  It also provides links  to local resources that can help with proper installation of a seat. Videos and car seat facts are included, too.

Download the app from iTunes here.

Download for Android here.

Don’t make these five tragic car seat mistakes

Though parents may say they understand that car seats are intended to keep their children safe, despite best intentions four out of five car seats are used incorrectly, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Arizona Department of Health Services data provides some alarming statistics:

Nearly 30 of the 45 child passengers in car crashes in 2009 were not properly restrained in a safety seat.

In one-third of those cases, a proper vehicle restraint could have prevented the death of a young child. Correct use of a child restraint can reduce the risk of fatal injury by as much as 71 percent, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Association figures.

Sadly, car seat “mistakes” can result in tragedy. Are you using your car seat safely? How would you know?

Here are five of the most common errors parents and caregivers make when using safety seats:

  • Installing seats too loosely. Give your seat a moderate tug near the seatbelt path or anchoring device used to secure the seat. If you can move the seat more than an inch in any direction the seat is too loose.

Fix this by pushing your weight into the seat and tightening the seatbelt as much as possible, ensuring that your seatbelt locks into place. Older vehicles may not have locking seatbelts, so you may need to refer to your car seat and car owner’s manual.

  • Buckling the harness too loose, too high or too low. If you can pinch the webbing along the length of the harness strap after buckling your child in, the harness is too loose. Fix this by tightening the straps so your fingers slide off during the “pinch test.”

Also, if your child is in the rear-facing position, the top of the harness straps should be at or below your child’s shoulders. If he is in the forward-facing position, the harness straps should be at or above the shoulders.

  • Turning children face-forward too soon. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to keep children in the rear-facing position until the age of two, or until they reach the upper height and weight limits of their car seat.

Under old guidelines, many parents eagerly turned their children around at 1-year-old. However, the rear-facing position is safest because it provides the most support for a baby’s head, neck and developing spinal cord in a crash.

  • Not using a booster. Arizona is only one of three states without a booster seat law, allowing children to transition to an adult seatbelt at the age of five. However, this law is misleading because seatbelts are not designed to fit children until they reach about 4’9”.

 After outgrowing their safety seat, children should use a booster seat to help position the seatbelt correctly. The shoulder belt should rest on the shoulder and chest—not the neck and face—and the lap belt should rest across the hips or upper thigh—not the stomach.

  • Using a seat that is expired or recalled. Look on the sides or bottom of the car seat for a sticker or embossing with an expiration date. If there is only a manufacture date, generally the seat expires after six years unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer.

Additionally, when purchasing a new seat, be sure to mail in the registration card to the manufacturer so you are notified of recalls or defects, or register your seat online.

You can also look up the latest recalls with NHTSA Recall Campaign List. 

AAA members can also benefit from the club’s free car seat inspections and installation training. To schedule an appointment with one of the club’s certified car seat technicians, contact AAA’s Traffic Safety Educator at 602-241-2945 or

RAK Video: Cardon Children’s Medical Center car seat safety expert Tracey Fejt, R.N., talks about securing safety seats properly.

Riding with the grandparents: even safer with new AAA classes

When emergency medicine specialist Dr. Fred Henretig, who practices at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, became a grandpa, he found himself feeling a bit nervous on the occasions when he drove with his granddaughter in the car.

Those feelings prompted a new study on just how safe kids are when riding with grandma or grandpa. Studies in the past have shown that car crashes happen

Courtesy City of Winnepeg

more frequently among older drivers over the age of 65.

But the results from Henretig’s study, featured in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, were suprising. Researchers found that a child’s risk for injury was fifty percent lower when riding with the grandparents than with parents.

Today’s grandparents may not be the stereotypical doddering elders of yesterday- and they most likely take their mission very seriously when driving precious cargo. Or perhaps the simple fact that they may be less stressed-out than parents may explain the results.

Yet grandparents still have some room to improve in the safety awareness department. Researchers found that they were slightly less likely to follow safety guidelines for positioning children and their car seats in the vehicle.

Because most grandparents put us all to shame when it comes to planning ahead — it’s a good time to mention AAA’s newest traffic safety program: A Grandparent’s Guide to Child Passenger Safety.

This free 90-minute workshop will reveal the best practices for child safety seats, a hands-on demonstration of a variety of seats, and tips for easy installation.

The first program will be held on Wednesday, August 24, 10:30 a.m.  at AAA Headquarters, 3144 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix.

To sign up for the course, contact AAA’s Traffic Safety Educator at (602) 241-2945 or email

Meawhile, it never hurts to review recommended safety practices for vehicle safety.

Here are safety seat guidelines from the AAA, followed by a recent RAK video featuring tips from Cardon Children’s Medical Center safety educator Tracey Fejt, R.N. Find out about Cardon’s car seat safety classes.

Under current Arizona law, children may transition from a safety seat to an adult seatbelt at the age of five, giving parents and caregivers outdated and incomplete guidance for child passenger protection.  Arizona is only one of three states without a booster seat law, which protects older child passengers.

AAA has urged legislatures to adopt an improved child passenger safety law, but until that happens, the club encourages parents to adhere to the following child passenger safety tips:

•  Select a car seat that is appropriate for your child’s age and size, that fits your vehicle, and that you will use correctly every time. In March, NHTSA revised its child passenger guidelines to reflect the latest scientific and medical research for child restraint technologies. Parents and caregivers can find those guidelines on this chart.

•  Keep children rear-facing as long as possible. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise parents to use restraints in the rear-facing position for as long as children fit within the maximum height and weight limits set by the car seat’s manufacturer.

Even if a child meets the minimum requirements to advance to the next stage of safety restraint, the rear-facing position is the best position to reduce stress to a child’s fragile neck and spinal cord in the event of a crash.

•  Refer to instruction manuals when installing your car seat. With thousands of combinations of child safety seats and vehicle belt systems, it is important for parents to read both the vehicle owner’s manual and the child safety seat instructions before installing using the seat.

AAA members can also benefit from the aid of a trained car seat technician who can guide them through the installation process.

•  Seat children under the age of 13 in the back seat. While this may not be a popular rule for older children who call “shotgun,” the back seat is the safest place in the vehicle for them. In the most common collision, a head-on crash, a child will be at greater risk of being thrown into the dashboard or through the windshield, or being harmed by objects entering the car.

Additionally, most vehicles are equipped with passenger side air bags, that when deployed, can cause severe head and neck injuries to a child whose body is still developing.

•  Learn the laws before crossing state lines. Child passenger safety requirements vary from state to state, and may be based on age, weight, height, or any combination of those. Parents can use AAA’s interactive state laws map to determine the rules wherever they travel.