Doniese Wilcox, CFLE, is an Avera Children’s Family Life Educator, and she knows the expertise of Sioux Falls Fire Rescue is a great place to start.
“The free service they provide can give parents peace of mind and a real sense of knowing that they have it in the car properly,” Wilcox said. “If you’re anything like me, you might not be the most handy person in the world, so having a bit of expert help, like they provide, is a real blessing.”
While child car seats may seem pretty straightforward, Shannon Weber, a firefighter with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue, who serves as a certified technician for the department’s child-seat inspection service at Fire Station No. 3, said there are some common errors.
She’s happy to share her insight with parents who have questions.
She said questions can multiply when the weather turns colder and parents wrangle the challenge of bundled babies and the operation of the seat itself. Weber said there are a few keys to remember, no matter what the temperature.
Weber said first-time parents can have lots of questions, and she recommends when they are shopping for a seat to keep three points in mind:
- Find a seat that fits your child
- Find one that works in your vehicle
- Find one that is easy for you to use
Infant car seats, regardless of brand or price, all have to meet the same safety requirements, so shop around and read reviews, but remember, they all are similar in safety, but some are easier to use than others.
Weber reminds parent to keep in mind a simple reality: if it costs more, it doesn’t necessarily mean a safer seat. “It’s more important to find the right fit for your child and vehicle,” she said.
Weber also said the rule on rear-facing seats is a crucial one for all parents.
“One thing we like to remind parents about is rear-facing versus forward facing seats, because the standards have changed. You want to have your child facing the rear of the vehicle until the child meets the weight and height limits for their car seat,” she said. “We encourage parents to keep their child facing the rear for as long as possible because it’s safer.”
Fire Station No. 3 hosts a weekly Saturday 9-11 a.m. inspection service at their site on Minnesota Avenue and 37th Street. Weber said a common mistake among parents is straps that are too loose.
She said you should not be able to pinch the webbing at the child’s shoulder. That looseness can lead to unsafe situations with winter clothing.
Bundled babies in their thick tiny parkas or snowsuits can cause slack straps that can be unsafe in a crash. That’s why mom and dad should put young children into their seats without coats; it’s just safer, experts like Weber say.
“In a crash, the force will compact the coats, so that’s why it’s recommended you put the child in their seat without a coat,” she said. “Use a baby-carrier cover or blankets to keep them warm out to the car, and then buckle the carrier into its place in the vehicle.”
Parents can slip a coat over their child’s arms or use extra car blankets as needed, but do not get into a habit of leaving the coat on the child. It’s just not safe. Speaking of safety, Weber says she’s happy to have parents stop in on Saturdays and make sure everything is “good to go” on their vehicle, seat and little one.