Archive for the ‘Car seat safety’ Category

Getting a New Car

safety pilotWell, it’s not actually new, and it’s not actually mine to keep. But there is an extensive, multi-year U.S. Department of Transportation safety pilot research study being conducted in our area. It’s pretty neat. And, being somewhat of a vehicle safety nut, I find it interesting and signed up to participate when the study was first announced.

There are three levels of participation. The least-involved level (which we currently have on our main vehicle)  includes a small data collection device that involves no interaction from the driver. The middle level (which my boss has) includes the data collection device and also emits warning signals when another study vehicle is too close. The third level involves driving a study-provided car equipped with five cameras that collect data about driving conditions, proximity of other vehicles, driver reaction, etc.

I was notified today that they want me to participate in the third level. Besides being excited to participate further in the study (I happen to work in the research environment at the university, and was interested in research even before I started working there), I am really looking forward to driving one of their vehicles for 5-6 months. It won’t be a luxury vehicle, but it’ll certainly be nicer than the 2003 Ford Focus station wagon that I usually drive. (Or maybe it will be a luxury vehicle – I’m supposed to be getting a 2011 Buick Lacrosse. Not new, but nice!)

Here’s an interesting article on the study, from Wired magazine. (Though I do think their “300 vehicles” figure is wrong.)

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Be Back Soon

I’m out in sunny California on a top-secret mission that I’ll blog about in a few weeks. And when I return – an overdue write-up of the Duran Duran concert, with more pics and a video clip or two.

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I’ve commented before how nice it is to live in SE Michigan, as a child passenger safety technician. I have the pleasure and benefit of working with experts from GM, Ford (never Chrysler, I think), Recaro, Takata, and more.

On the other hand, I’m also lucky to live near and work at one of the top research universities in the country. In fact, the institute that I’m part of actually exists to support researchers. Health research is important, and the kids and I have talked about the possibility of participating in research studies at some point.

Who knew the two would come together?

The transportation research department is doing a study of kids ages 4-11, to observe and evaluate their fit in various seating and restraint situations. As soon as I heard about it, I mentioned it to Allie and Adam, who were eager to participate. (The $36 payment didn’t hurt, of course, and I let them keep that money for themselves.) I contacted the research assistant right away to set up an appointment.

Once we got there, the kids had to put on special blue bathing suits, and the researchers painted motion capture dots on them. Then they used a Faro arm to precisely measure each child’s body dimensions in three seating positions. After that was completed, they moved to a special curtained area that was equipped with four lasers (one in each corner of the “room”).  Once the kid was situated precisely, the lasers moved down on their tracks. They made a 3D image each time, like so:

(That’s Adam, of course. Not a good pic, but in real life you could even look at the face and tell it was him.) They did this for each of the various measurement scenarios, so they probably made five or six 3D models of each kid. It was pretty darn cool.

The researchers told me that the findings will be published by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and then used by auto and child restraint manufacturers to improve the design of vehicle seats, child restraints, and crash test dummies. The kids enjoyed joking that they were going to become crash test dummies. I, on the other hand, like to think that by the time Jenny is ready for a booster, the seats on the market then will have been informed by the research that Adam and Allie participated in. It was definitely worthwhile, and we’re going to keep our eyes open for other appropriate studies.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone else ever participated in any sort of health or medical research study? I’d love to hear about it!

(Nephew Nick actually took part in a study when he was recovering from open heart surgery last year, and it turns out that the principle investigator for the study is the recently hired big cheese in my department. Neat coincidence.)

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I want to share a story with you. It’s kind of long but it’s very important, so I hope you’ll read the whole thing.

This is a friend’s crashed van. She, her husband and their three daughters (almost 7, almost 5, and almost 3) were traveling on a highway near Phoenix, AZ. Their van hit something in the road, lost control, hit a divider, rolled onto the driver’s side, skidded across four lanes of traffic and went airborne before coming to a rest completely upside down.

This is the driver’s side, the side they skidded on. The husband was driving, mom was sitting in the middle row with one of the kids, and the other two kids were in the third row.

Miraculously, all five of them will be okay. Two of the children were treated and released immediately. The husband has a lung contusion and road burns, mom is in a neck brace and has severe road burns, and the middle child has a broken leg. The almost-3yo was still rear-facing, and she was the ONLY ONE to walk away from this crash without a single bruise or scratch on her body.

Pretty scary crash, right? But EVERYONE IS OK!

And this, my friends, is why I work so hard to help people keep their kids safe in the car. Because you can’t choose whether you’re going to be in a crash, and you can’t choose what kind of crash you’re going to be in. Why not prepare for the worst?

I don’t mean to be preachy – ever – but I hope that all of you will think long and hard about how your own family rides in the car. This could happen to anyone, but this family essentially walked away from what could have been/should have been a fatal crash because they were all properly restrained. The nearly-7YO and nearly-5YO were still in harnessed car seats (not boosters) and the almost-3YO was rear facing.

Please, please keep your little ones rear-facing past at least age 2, harnessed until they outgrow their seat, and then in a booster until the adult seat belt fits correctly. This story had a happy ending, but the next one may not.

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Today’s “happiness” is something that’s surprisingly selfish.

I’m a car seat tech. A certified, trained Child Passenger Safety Technician, to be exact. It’s very rewarding volunteer work, of course (and for most CPSTs, it’s volunteer work) and who can argue with the value of keeping kids safe in cars. In that respect, I always appreciate having the chance to participate in car seat check events. Today I worked a seat check event in a very low-income, primarily Spanish-speaking area of a very large city, and having kids come in with no car seat (or an outgrown, expired, broken, and/or recalled seat) into an appropriate, correctly used seat – well, it’s kind of hard to explain how great that feels.

But the real reason that I do the car seat stuff … it’s because I like it. I have fun doing it, I really enjoy spending time with my car seat “peeps,” etc. And not least of all is the fact that I’m really good at it, and other people know it. (This is where the kind of selfish part comes in.) It feels great to have the people in charge tell me “BookMama, we’re  so glad you came today!” and when I leave, tell me what a great job I did and thank me again for coming, for staying to help the very last car (I always seem to get the stragglers, LOL), etc. Sometimes they even assign me to a new tech as a sort of mentor to make sure they’re trained well and are telling caregivers what they should be telling them. I love being at home with my kids, but let’s face it, at the end of the day no one ever tells me “Bookmama, thanks so much for taking care of your kids all day! That was some killer PB&J you made Book Boy for lunch – just the way he likes it. And don’t worry that the  house is a mess, we’re just glad you could be here for us today.” Yeah, not so much.

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McDonald's Kicks woman out for feeding her baby!Last night, an online acquaintance from car-seat.org was kicked out of a McDonald’s restaurant in Phoenix, for discretely nursing her infant son.

Obviously, that’s not my “happiness” for today. I support breastfeeding mothers, have nursed both my girls (Book Girl until 15 months, Book Baby until ???), and have no problem with women nursing their babies in public. Heck, I even did it with each girl until she hit the nursing gymnastics phase. 😉 Not to mention, of course, that in most states (including Arizona), mothers have the legal right to nurse their babies anywhere that they themselves are legally allowed to be. Including restaurants.

No, my “happiness” for today is the incredible amount of support that Clarissa has received. From the car seat board, to Facebook, to other message boards, to two of her local TV stations. I’m proud of her and the awareness she has brought to this important issue.

For the record, her story (as told by her friend) is pasted below. Clarissa is encouraging people to spread the word and support the cause.

“Tonight my friend and I, and our 6 children, visited the McDonald’s located at 51st Avenue and Cactus in Phoenix, AZ. We
were promptly advised by the cashier (night manager Tyler Pearson (sp.?) that our kids could play in the play land area but that we could not eat in the dining area specifically designated for families to eat while their children played. We were directed to sit in the dining area out of sight of the McDonald’s play land.

Upon completing our ice cream we returned to the play area about 10 minutes later so that our children could play. After a few minutes of sitting, I walked over to the cashier (again, night manager Tyler Pearson (sp.?) to order some drinks. Without even taking my drink
order, Mr. Pearson advised me that we were being kicked out. When my friend asked Mr. Pearson why we were being kicked out he immediately stated that several customers had complained that she was breastfeeding her baby in McDonald’s and that because of that mere act we were not welcome! This COMPLETELY humiliated and mortified the both of us. My friend then appropriately advised Mr. Pearson that she was within her Arizona State rights to breastfeed her son. Mr. Pearson dismissed her comment, grew agitated and repeated his early statement that we needed to leave (regardless of Arizona Law). In response to this event, we told Mr. Pearson we needed his full name and the telephone number to the corporate offices of McDonald’s so that we could call and complain.

Embarrassed and hurt, we exited the McDonald’s with all of our children upset and confused as to why we were being kicked out
and why they could no longer play there. I stopped outside to immediately make a telephone call to the number provided by Mr. Pearson 480-585-5653. As I was leaving a message regarding my complaint Mr. Pearson approached us outside only to aggravate the situation by threatening to call the police for trespassing. He scared our children and one of the older children was in tears and beside himself because he thought he and his mom and everyone else were going to jail. As if that weren’t enough, Mr. Pearson continued
the show by following us into the parking lot, as we were buckling our children in, to write down our license plate numbers. This made the children even more upset. Not to mention the baby who is crying and hungry and can’t eat because his mother is being forced from the McDonald’s establishment and slightly harassed in the parking lot so that she wouldn’t even be able to sit and nurse the baby in her van!!! Unacceptable and completely discriminatory!!!”

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Hangin’ out with my car seat peeps. 🙂

(Doesn’t hurt when we’re there to let Book Girl pose for pics to accompany a review of a new car seat that everyone is anxiously anticipating.)

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Earlier this week, I invited you to ask me questions to help jump-start my blog with some good topics. Only two of you have done so, but boy did those two ask questions! (Anyone else who has a question is welcome to ask it in the comments here or in the previous post.)

DSC02652-1.jpg picture by taruffQuestion #2, from Jen over at The Road Less Traveled:

Are you still doing the car seat thing?

You betcha! It’s a little harder now with the baby, though. She doesn’t exactly like to take a bottle, so leaving her for more than an hour or so can be stressful for both her and Tim. But she’s getting better, going longer between feedings, and I suspect that once she starts “solids” (in a month or so), that will help tide her over until I get home. I did a seat check last month – first time I actually checked seats since August – and it was great to get back to it.

My car seat related activities really serve two purposes for me. First, of course, is keeping kids safe. I do most of my checks in Detroit, where car seat usage is dismal, and seeing kids ride away in safe car seats is really rewarding. Second, I like doing it, and I love hanging out with my car seat friends. (My “car seat friends” are other techs who do it because they want to – not because they have to for work – and are really good at it. The ones who get excited when they get to play with a new car seat. There are about eight of us in the area who like to hang out together.)

Someday soon, I’ll bore you all with more pictures of the kids in their car seats.

Oh, and you might be amused to know that for the first month of her life, Book Baby cried every.single.time I put her in the car seat. (She’s over that now, thank goodness, since we have to pick Book Boy up from school every day.)

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August 10: Today’s happiness is actually related to Saturday’s.  Here’s an excerpt from the nice follow-up note that our Safe Kids coordinator sent out today:

“In continuous torrential rain, you made 98 cars and over 196 children safe … I believe that event could very well be the catalyst that leads to a dramatic improvement in the use of safety restraints for both adults and children in that community.”

It’s so nice to know that we’ve made a difference!

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August 8: Today’s happiness was pulling into the location for a big seat check event – it was pouring rain – and discovering that it was an indoor location. Probably our only one of the summer.

Actually, there was quite a bit of happiness related to today’s seat check:

  • We had plenty of good translators! The event took place in Detroit’s Mexicantown, and everyone I helped today (parents and kids) spoke Spanish. 75% of the parents I spoke with spoke no English, so having the translators was crucial. And they were good. 🙂
  • I was able to talk several families into keeping their little ones rear-facing past the bare minimum of 1 year and 20 lbs. Rear facing is so much safer, and I think they got that.
  • We helped make well over 100 kids safer today! We checked seats until 4:20, and I know that by 2:00 we had checked 104 kids – so we might even have hit 150.
  • This evening, as Little Sister and I were saying goodnight, I gave her a hug and (as I always do after a seat check event) thanked her for being so good for Tim so that I could check car seats and help make other kids safe. She gave me a hug and said, “Mom,” *kiss* *love pat on back* “thanks for making kids safe!” Talk about melting my heart!

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