Below is a partial transcript from the urbanMamas Podcast Episode 7 where we welcome Leanne Goolsby, a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician who helps fill us in on safety seat laws and recommendations in the state of Oregon. At the end of the transcript are resources to ensure your child is riding safely. And please take a moment to rate this podcast and leave a review on iTunes!
(we totally spaced the icebreaker hat)
K: I know I've been doing things wrong probably the whole time my children have been in car seats.
L: Don't worry, you're in really good company. Most people are making mistakes that they're not even aware that they're making and I think that's probably one of the biggest things I've noticed as a CPST and as I've learned more and more over the years about child passenger safety is that people aren't necessarily intending to do things wrong. Nobody wants to put their child in danger on purpose, and if you do, then we've got other problems to talk about. People just don't necessarily know, it's not like you get pregnant and all of a sudden your head is filled with all of this knowledge about laws and recommendations and how to properly install a car seat. It doesn't just magically come to you.
R: It should.
K: The problem is that things keep changing. And that's kinda what prompted this whole thing today. So my kids are now 9 and 6 and really fastly - fastly? - approaching their birthdays, and so we're a bit removed from the infant seat stuff, but then when I was re-visiting how long do I keep my daughter in her booster seat, and I looked at it and went "oh man, I totally did that wrong with my son."
R: So let's just jump straight in. What are the requirements for restraining these children passengers?
L: First of all I do want to point out that there is a big difference between laws and best practice, as far as safety goes. And that is kind of universal. Laws for Oregon, and that's what I'll focus on today is strictly for Oregon. I'm going to read directly from the Oregon Impact website so I don't misquote this: "Oregon child occupant protection law states that child passengers must be restrained in an approved child safety seat until they weigh 40 lbs."
So that's talking about a harness, a 5 point harness, the straps that go over both shoulders. You have a chest clip, and then the straps that come over both hips, and the latch that connects all of those straps together at the crotch. So that's saying that your child, who is under 40 lbs needs to be restrained in a 5 point harness.
R: And there's no age associated with that? It's just the weight?
L: Yes. And again, we are talking about the laws here, and them I'm going to get into what you really should be doing to keep your child as safe as possible. Our law also states that infants must ride rear-facing until they reach both 1 year AND 20 lbs. So, if you're 6 month old is 20 lbs. they haven't reached the point of turning forward facing, according to our laws. If you're 2 year old is only 17 lbs. they also have not reached that limit. It's one year AND 20 lbs. Which I think trips people up sometimes because they think it's either/or.
K: I'm jumping ahead, sorry. People are keeping their kids rear-facing a lot longer, because even just a few years ago it was the one year and 20 lbs thing, but that was it. That was like, okay, now we do it. But there's recommendations that's for longer?
L: Yes, absolutely.
K: Did I just steal some thunder?
L: You totally stole my thunder, but it's my very favorite thunder, because rear-facing is such an important part of keeping our kids safe and is one of the easiest things that you can do to help ensure your child's safety in the car.
Next, children over 40 lbs. or who have reached the upper weight limit of their car seat's harness system must use a booster seat until they are 4' 9" OR age 8. So at a minimum they must be 4' 9" tall or the age of 8, and again, this is just laws.
K: Okay I did that right. I'm legal.
R: You won't get a ticket. You might get judged, but you won't get a ticket.
K: I'm used to judgment.
R: What should we really be doing?
L: Let's talk about best practice. So American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (otherwise known as NHTSA), the recommendation is keep your child rear-facing until at least the age of 2. Studies have shown that keeping kids rear-facing until they are the age of 2 results in your child being 500% safer than they are being front-facing. And the reason for that is you think about a little kid, you think about a baby, and how big their heads are, right? So adults your head is about a ninth of the size of your whole body, proportionally. But kids have these giant noggins and it's about 1/4 of the size of their whole body.
K: They're like chihuahuas.
L: If your kid is one year old and they've hit that 20 lb. mark, so legally, they are within the guidelines to be front-facing. And you've got them harnessed in and you're in an accident, they're body's going to be held in by the harness, but their head is going to fly forward on that impact, and they have such a high chance of severing their spinal cord, of -- I know, right? -- having internal injuries, and these are the kinds of things that kids don't come back from. Like, you're talking paralysis, internal decapitation, you never want to put those words together with your child, with anybody! but especially when you're thinking about your child here. It's so scary, and I think so many parents just aren't aware of what can happen and how bad it can really be. And they say "Oh, ya know, if it's LAW it's SAFE" well that isn't necessarily the case. Laws take so long to change, and fortunately we've had so much research and different organizations have put a lot of time and effort and money into doing additional crash testing and looking at the data and that's where this 2 year old recommendation comes from. So when we're talking best practice we want to keep kids rear-facing until at least 2 years old. Shoot for 4, if you can, and just try and get kind of as close to that as you can. Seats on the market today can rear-face kids until 40 lbs. within these seats.
K: Their feet don't hit the back of the seat?
L: That's a great question. So, Kelli, how does Maggie sit most of the time? What does she do with her legs?
K: She doesn't. She's moving all the time.
L: So if she were to sit on the ground, would she sit with her legs straight out in front of her, or does she tend to bend them.
K: She tucks her knees under.
L: My point here is kids are super bendy. Most kids if you just set them down normally, not in a carseat, they're going to tuck their legs up underneath them. They're going to have one leg off to the side and one leg around their head, they're so flexible that most of the time when parents are saying "Well his legs are bent and he was uncomfortable" it's because it looks uncomfortable to grown-ups. So if you were trying to sit rear-facing, it would probably not be the most comfortable thing in the world for you. But kids, 1, 2, 3, 4 year olds, they're going to sit with their legs curled up anyway, or cross-legged. So older kids, when their feet start to touch the backseat, they can sit criss cross applesauce, they can dangle legs over the side, they can prop their feet up on the back of the seat. My son used to sit one foot on either side of the headrest. And he would just lounge back and he was the most comfortable kid, I never heard a peep out of him as far as discomfort, and he has long legs. That kid is all legs. And so from a safety standpoint, there's not an issue with their legs touching the seat. And actually, forward-facing there's a greater likelihood of extremity injury, so like legs or arms being injured in a crash front-facing than there is rear-facing.
R: Because they're exposed and not protected?
L: Yeah. And so on impact their legs are going to fly forward and hit the seat in front of them. Unless your child is specifically saying "My legs are really really uncomfortable and my body can't handle sitting cross legged like this" well, you'd be hard-pressed to find a kid who's going to tell you that. My son turned front-facing in my car when he was 4, and he rides in a front-facing harness seat now, and he sits criss cross applesauce, still, front-facing. They just kinda like to curl up.
Stepping back a little bit, the reason that rear-facing is so much safer is because of the way the car seat cocoons the child. So when you're rear-facing, I have my hands cupped in sort of a U-shape, the child's body is cocooned by the car seat, and on impact, the car seat does, it's called, a ride down, but it basically just supports the whole body as the car seat goes back and then forward again. And so it distributes any pressure and force across the entire body. So you've got your kid and you've been hit by another vehicle and their whole car seat absorbs the impact of that crash, and rides down and spreads that force over the whole body.
So front-facing, you've got your kid, this is your kid (my finger) and here is there harness, on impact, your car is hit, their harness stops them, and then their head whips forward.
(and here is where we devolve into hysterical laughter as Leanne's well-practiced hand gestures remind us of something else entirely ... )
As children get older, as you close in on age 4, ossification, which is the process of your bones hardening and fusing together, age 4 is when ossification really is nearing completion ...
(laughter again, we're like 7th graders in a locker room, yeesh)
Ossification happens around age 4, so that's why the recommendation for keeping your kid rear-facing as close to 4 as you possibly can, so then when they're front-facing, when their bones are fused and their spinal column and spinal cord are more protected, they're going to be safer, and less chance of injury if there's a crash and they're front-facing.
K: So we hear people say "Well when I was a kid it was so much easier, we rode around in the back of the pick up truck, was in the front seat with my mom when I was 4" do we have statistics that no, that was a pretty shittily unsafe time? So what are the statistics that show all of these efforts, the 5 point restraint, the proper use, the no big jackets, all of it, the rear facing, has actually decreased these incidents of harm to our children.
L: Yes, there are statistics, lots and lots of them. The more statistics I rattle off the more confused people tend to get. But, yes, generally we are being safer. When I talk to somebody and they say "Well I rode around in the back of my dad's truck and I'm just fine" well what about the people who weren't fine? I bet if they were here to tell you they would say they're not fans of dying, or being paralyzed.
K: I have another question. I see a lot of videos and photos, moms and dads want to take pictures of their babies, and babies are in their car seats a lot, and they're cute a lot, so, ergo, lots of cute pictures of cute babies in car seats, that may or may not be done perfectly to standard, right? Baby's wearing a jacket, the clip isn't high up enough. But then the parents comment. People they don't know. Like, strangers comment. There was a video about babies laughing in tunnels. So many comments like "Ugh, that's done SO wrong. They're putting their child in so much danger." What good does that do? Do you have an alternative forum for these parents to weigh in?
L: So yeah, that's a really good question, and I think for me, the more you know, the better you can do. So I know for a lot of other CPSTs or even people who aren't necessarily certified but would consider themselves child safety advocates, or someone who has taken the time to do some research and really learn about what best practices and how we can keep our kids safest in the car, it is like painful to see a video or something like that. For me, it's not necessarily coming from a place of judgment, because it's not my job to sit around and be like "You're doing things wrong" because I do all sorts of things wrong, just ask my son. Not so much from a place of judgment, but from a place of I wish I had known back then what i know now. And, if I have information that I can share with someone to help them make their child safer, why wouldn't I share it? I think a lot of people get really zealous and maybe forget how to ...
K: Be tactful.
K: If someone had commented and said "Oh, I'm concerned about the placement of that clip, here's a link to a video that shows you how to do it properly". Taken. Get that. That's awesome. But saying "Ugh. Your kid is in so much danger." The end.
R: “Do you want your child to die?”
K: Right. Show me, direct me to the place where I can learn instead of just being barraged with nebulous critiques.
L: I think that's such a valid point. It turns into a "mommy war" and that kills me because keeping our kids safe shouldn't be ... the only war should be against unsafe things. All we should be doing is lifting each other up and helping each other out and as parents, we need to be open to learning new things because our kids didn't come with manuals and we don't have all of the knowledge, but being open to the fact that some people might know more stuff about one thing and you might know stuff about something else and just trying to take that into account when people are offering advice.
R: It shouldn't be a mommy war, that's for sure. I'm really curious about best practice recommendations for booster kids.
L: Absolutely. So I talked a little bit about laws being the minimum, 40 lbs and remain in a booster until 8 years old or 4' 9". So that's laws. Best practice says that kids can move into a booster when they are physically and emotionally ready. So, what the hell does that even mean? What that looks like is can your child sit still in a seat with just a seatbelt 100% of the time?
R: I can't even do that!
L: Rae Ann needs a 5 point harness. Can they sit facing forward, not leaning over, not slumping, not sliding out of their seatbelt, 100% of the time? And that really is not gonna happen until your kid is at least 5 or 6. 4 years old, you are going to be hard pressed to find a 4 year old who can behave responsibly in the car. And that is not a reflection on your parenting, it is not a reflection on your kid, that is just 4 year olds in general, and like 90% of 5 year olds, and honestly, like 50% of 35 year olds. So transitioning your child into their first booster, so like a high-back booster, when they're somewhere around like 5 1/2 or 6 and up.
R: Then when are they done?
L: When are they done with the booster? To move from a booster into strictly the vehicle seat belt with no other parts, you are looking for Oregon law minimum is 4' 9" tall, 8 years old, but honestly, most kids aren't gonna hit seatbelt readiness until they're somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12. As far as safety to ride without a booster, you're looking for what's called The 5 Step Test. Here are the questions that you need to answer yes to, and you have to answer yes to every single one of these questions. All 5, for your child to be ready to move into just a seat belt.
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat? So that means, from their hips all their way up to their shoulder, their whole body is pressed back against the vehicle seat.
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat? So when you're sitting with your hips all the way back against the vehicle seat, can your knees bend over the edge?
3. Does the belt cross the collarbone between the neck and the arm? That's again that proper fit with the seatbelt going directly across your shoulder, not riding up onto your neck, not riding down onto your arm, but squarely across the shoulder.
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible snugly across the hips and thighs? You want it sitting down right below those hip bones, so it's on the solid portion.
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? Which, you could have a kid who hits the first 4 and then number 5, your child's not going to stay seated for the whole trip. Well that might be a really motivating factor for them. Okay, you need to show me that you can sit properly the entire time for every ride for the next week or two weeks or whatever, and then we can ditch the booster.
This can be different in different vehicles, if we're talking riding in the third row of a minivan versus a captain's chair in an SUV, there's going to be a pretty big fit difference.
So, we go from rear-facing, keep kids rear-facing until 2 at a minimum, shoot for age 4, but somewhere between 2 and 4 and you're doing awesome. Then, they're gonna ride in a front-facing harness seat until about age 5 1/2 or 6, at a minimum. Then we're going to move to a high-back booster for a few years, and looking for that solid belt fit across the shoulder and down low on the hips. Then you can move to a no-back booster, which is just gonna give em a little bit of a boost up - heh -
K: And their own cup holder, which is important.
L: The cup holder is a huge selling point. My kid's favorite part of his car seat. And then somewhere between ages 10 and 12 typically, you're gonna start looking for that 5 step test with your kid and making sure they hit all 5 of those steps before they are ready to ride in a vehicle with no car seat. And then, because I know people are gonna wonder this, "When can my kid ride in the front seat of my car?"
R & K: NEVER.
L: Never ever ever. Just kidding. Kids should be remaining in the backseat ages 12 and under. And that's like a really easy milestone for kids to remember. You need to be a teenager. And that just has to do with physical maturity of the body, because in the front seat you're much closer to points of impact. To a windshield. To airbags.
R: To me.
L: To the driver. To the stereo. But if you flip down your sun visor there's always a warning there that says the backseat is the safest place for children, and children ages 12 and under should ride in the backseat.
K: Look kids, the car says so.
L: It's the rules.
Have a kiddo in a carseat or a baby on the way? Bookmark Oregon Impact. They have pulled together the most comprehensive information on child passenger safety this side of Leanne Goolsby. Links to Oregon Impact and other resources below.
Make an appointment with a CPST to ensure your child's safety seat is properly installed, for assistance programs for reduced cost car seats, and for recycling programs for car seats and boosters that have been in an accident (no matter how slight!).
Learn how to properly install a child safety seat. (see video)
Review laws and best practices for all child passengers.
Join Car Seats for the Littles on Facebook to chat with a CPST.
Friday, February 27th
Chinese New Year Celebrations at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Learn more about Chinese New Year and participate in special events. Children 5 and under are free; $9.50 adults. Friday 10am-5pm. The celebration continues through March 5th. Click here for more ideas to celebrate the Year of the Ram.
PP&R Ladybug Walk in NE PDX. Explore Rose City Park with a trained preschool naturalist. $4 per preschooler. Friday 10am.
Create Your Own Robot Hero at Sparks Art in NE PDX. Disney folks will be handing out Big Hero 6 swag and kids can make their own personal robots. Robot making is free; kids in grades K and up are welcome to stay for open studio for $15. Robot making is Friday 3:30-4:30pm. Open studio runs from 3:30-5:30pm.
Gogh Kids Canvas Painting Class in Tigard. Create your own masterpiece - a cute little penguin - during this step by step painting class for kids. Advance registration recommended. $15. Friday 4-5pm.
Saturday, February 28th
Free Taekwondo Class in SE PDX. Children ages 4 to 6 can try out the Tiny Tigers program at Traditional Taekwondo for free. Please reserve your space. Free. Saturday 9-10am.
Penny's Puppets at the Alberta Abbey. See Portland's own Penny the Puppeteer as she presents The Princess and the Peanut. $5/person. Saturday 10:30-11:30am.
Closing Weekend of NWCT's The Jungle Book. This original adaptation with a Bollywood twist tells the classic story of a child raised in the wild. Read PDX Kids Calendar’s review of the show here.
African Marimba Concert in NE PDX. Hear six marimba bands play high-energy music from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Come ready to dance! Free; raffle tickets available for purchase. Saturday 12-3:30pm.
Frankenstein's Comic Book Swap in SE PDX. Swap out the old for the new. Free for kids; $1 for adults; $5 early bird at 11am. Saturday 12-6pm.
Opening Weekend of Timmy Failure. This OCT original production is packed with deadpan humor, visual gags, sophisticated storytelling and a hint of the surreal. Best for ages 8 and up. $15 and up. Saturday 2pm and 5pm and Sunday 11am and 2pm. Read more about the show here.
Sunday, March 1st
Hula Hoopla for Kids with Happy Mindful People in NE PDX. Introduce your kids to hula hoop instruction and play while also learning about social skills. Please preregister. $14 drop in. Sunday 1:15-1:45pm.
Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration with The Learning Palace. Join for activities, stories, games, giveaways and treats. Free. Sunday 2-4pm.
Hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun out there! And don't forget to double-check event details by calling or checking the website of the venue, performer, or host organization.
Friday, February 20th
Journey Theater Presents Alice in Wonderland Jr. in Hillsboro. Enjoy this fast-paced adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic story. $10-15. Friday 9:30-10:30am and 11:45am-12:45pm.
Chinese New Year Celebrations Begin at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Learn more about the Chinese New Year and participate in special events. Children 5 and under are free; $9.50 adults. Friday 10am-5pm. The celebration continues through March 5th. Click here for more ideas to celebrate the Year of the Ram.
Red Yarn at the Warehouse Cafe. Weaving together live music, puppetry and storytelling, Red Yarn teaches positive values while reviving American folklore. $5 suggested donation per family. Friday 10-10:45am.
Drop-in Open Studio in NE PDX. Children in grades K-8 will have access to a variety of art supplies to spark their imagination as they create original masterpieces. $15 for 2 hours. Friday 3:20-5:30pm.
Saturday, February 21st
Wapato Nature Walk on Sauvie Island. Join a park naturalist for an informal walk focusing on local natural and cultural history. Free. Saturday 8-11am.
Chinese New Year Cultural Fair in NE PDX. Experience the dragon and lion dances, puppets shows, Chinese food, and much more in celebration of the Year of the Sheep. $8; kids 3 and under free. Saturday 10am-5pm.
Lil' Lentils Playgroup in SE PDX. Kate of Yoga Refuge PDX will lead some family-friendly yoga. $3-5 suggested donation. Saturday 10am-12pm.
Kids' Storytime at Powell's Books in Downtown PDX. Author Ariel Cohn and illustrator Aron Nels Steinke join to read from their book The Zoo Box. Free. Saturday 11-11:30am.
Harlem Globetrotters at the Moda Center. Catch the iconic Harlem Globetrotters as they work their basketball magic. $21.45 and up. Saturday 2-4pm.
Sunday, February 22nd
Festa di Carnevale for Kids in Beaverton. Celebrate this popular Italian holiday with a super-sized costume party, carnival games, a clown show, face painting, a treasure hunt, and much more. $15 for children 2 and over; adults free. Sunday 3-6pm.
Family Concert Series at the Village Ballroom in NE PDX. Join Red Yarn, The Alphabeticians, Tallulah's Daddy, Pointed Man Band, and special guests from Penny's Puppets. $7/person;tickets available here. Sunday 4-5:30pm.
Hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun out there! And don't forget to double-check event details by calling or checking the website of the venue, performer, or host organization
Friday, February 13th
Valentine's Day Crafting at The Craft Factory with Hattie's Sweet Shop. Decorate a Valentine cookie, craft a trinket box, enjoy a story and more. $12/child. Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm, drop-in.
Music with Mr. Hoo at the Village Ballroom. Sing along with fun, interactive original and traditional songs. $5/family. Friday 11am-12pm.
Valentine's Ball at Playdate PDX in NW PDX. See your friends from Frozen, a puppet show, and play in the indoor structure. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Friday 4-6pm.
Saturday, February 14th
Northwest Family and Kids Festival in Hillsboro. Enjoy games, face painting, reptiles, bounce houses, police cars, a fire truck and lots more. $10/family. Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm.
Oregon Statehood Day at the Oregon Historical Society. This 156th birthday celebration highlights black history in Oregon and includes storytelling and, of course, birthday cake. See website for schedule. Free. Saturday 10am-5pm.
Final Weekend of TOJT's Zen Shorts. Based on the Caldecott Award winning series by John Muth, this is the largest performance Tears of Joy has ever presented. $14-21. Saturday at 11am and 1pm; Sunday at 1pm and 3pm.
Second Saturday at the Water Center: Love Your Trees in Vancouver. Enjoy making various crafts from different parts of a tree. Free. Saturday 1-3pm.
Valentine's Day Reading and Craft at Green Bean Books. Author Christa Pierce reads from her picture book Did You Know that I Love You?. Afterwards, make a fox craft. Free. Saturday 1-1:30pm.
Final Weekend of Oregon Children's Theatre's Skippyjon Jones. This is your last chance to see the West Coast premiere of this rollicking musical. $15-30. Saturday 2pm and 5pm; Sunday 2pm. Read PDX Kids Calendar’s review here.
Family Dance at the Fulton Community Center. Join for a kid-friendly dance with callers and live music. $6 adults, $5 kids, $20 family max. Saturday 4:30-6:30pm.
Sunday, February 15th
The Alphabeticians at Cafe au Play. Sing, dance and learn the alphabet backwards and forwards with this crazy musical duo. $5/child. Sunday 10-11am.
Monster Jam at the Moda Center. Bring your little truck enthusiast for some loud and crazy big truck fun. $10-45. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! 2pm. Hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun out there!
And don't forget to double-check event details by calling or checking the website of the venue, performer, or host organization