Car Seat Safety Tips From Tot Squad’s Jen Beall Saxton

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Car Seat Safety Tips: Tot Squad Van and CEO Tot Squad is a mobile service for busy parents that offers cleaning, repairs and installation of strollers and car seats at different retail locations daily. Founder and CEO Jennifer Beall Saxton came up with the idea while in business school at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Recognizing an opportunity to help busy parents improve their work-life balance equation, she founded the business in 2010 and recently began nationwide expansion by franchising. Dubbed a “red-hot” franchise concept by CNBC, Tot Squad currently services Southern California, New York City, and Washington DC.

Read our exclusive interview with Jennifer to find out what she recommends when it comes to car seat installation. She also shares her mission to help busy parents keep their kids safe and secure.

How Did You Get Started with Car Seat Safety?

I came up with the concept for Tot Squad as a means to help busy moms. When I was in business school at Kellogg, I was speaking with a friend who was so overwhelmed as a new mom and had suddenly acquired all this baby gear that she barely knew what to do with. I saw that she especially struggled with her car seat. It was such a hassle to get it in and out of the car, disassemble it, clean it, wait for it to dry, and then try to reinstall it herself. I began researching more about car seats and found out that she wasn’t alone – so many new families struggle with this. I wrote up a business plan and entered it in the Kellogg Cup MBA Business Plan Competition and won first place. I realized this was a big opportunity to make a difference in parents’ lives.

Why is Car Seat Safety so Important?

Read our Car Seat Reviews

A staggering three of four car seats are incorrectly installed, which is particularly sobering when road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional death for children in the United States. Correctly used, a car seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.

I became truly passionate about car seat safety after receiving my certification as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) in 2009 and began seeing, firsthand, how many car seats are incorrectly installed. There have been so many innovations in the car seat industry, but it’s a challenge for parents to keep up with all the changes and their everyday application. That is why Tot Squad employs a team of certified CPSTs – car seat safety really matters!

What Should Someone Look for in a Car Seat?

The most important factor is to ensure you have the right seat for your child’s height and weight. There are three main types of car seats: infant, convertible and booster seats. While many convertible car seats can accommodate children as small as 5lbs, an infant seat comes in two parts – the seat and the base, which allows you to snap the seat in and out of the base (that remains in the car), without disturbing your sleeping baby. Convertible car seats are great because they can face rear or forward, but many people make the mistake of turning their toddlers forward facing, too soon. Children should remain rear facing for as long as the height/weight limits on their seat allows. According to the BMJ Injury Prevention Journal rear facing is up to 5 times safer for children 2 years and younger than forward facing. Boosters are for older children, usually when they outgrow the height/weight limits of their convertible seat. Sometimes kids (and parents) are in a rush to move to a booster seat, but the 5-point harness of a convertible seat reduces impact to a small body in a crash better than a conventional seat belt does, which is what a booster seat employs.

Any seat rated by the NHTSA meets federal safety standards for crash performance testing no matter its price tag. Some seats may be easier to use than others or have more bells and whistles, but the best seat is the seat that fits your car, fits your child, and that you can use correctly 100% of the time.

Where Should Car Seats be Placed?

Always consult both your vehicle’s manual and your car seat manual for best placement. Though the center of the back seat is statistically the safest place due to the distance from side impact crashes, if you cannot get a solid installation in that position, then place your child’s seat in one of the side positions in the back seat.

Who Should be Using Car Seats?

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that all children should remain facing backward until at least age two. If you are using a rear-facing infant seat, be sure your child falls below the maximum height/weight range. If they have outgrown their infant seat, you can move them to a convertible seat, rear facing. Turn them around to face forward when they have reached the height/weight limit for rear facing in their convertible seat, but not before they reach two years of age. Move them to a booster when they have reached the maximum forward facing height/weight limit for their convertible seat and even when they have outgrown their booster seat, keep them in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old.

When Should Car Seats be Used?

Your child should be in a car seat EVERY SINGLE TIME they are in a moving vehicle. Even if you are only running to the store on the corner, accidents can happen at any time and most accidents happen close to home. Also, any time your child is in a car pool or being driven by a caretaker, ensure they have a properly installed car seat that is appropriate for their height and weight. I am a stickler; so even when you travel – bring or borrow a car seat. Accidents can happen anywhere.

Any Tips for Installing a Car Seat Safely?

Be sure to consult both the vehicle and car seat manuals for placement and installation tips. Before installing the seat, adjust the height and recline of the seat to the correct position for your child. Whether you are using the vehicle’s LATCH system or the seat belt to install the car seat, be sure it does not move one inch in any direction at the belt path. If your car seat is front facing, make sure you also secure it with the top tether. Besides the manual your car seat comes with, many manufacturers have videos available online for demonstrations and tips.

Where Can One Get Help with Car Seat Installation?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers a car seat inspection station locator. Tot Squad’s team of certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians can be found there. As one of our services, we also offer “Safety School” for car seat safety education, so we can teach you to install your child’s seat correctly, yourself.

How Often Should You Check Car Seats Are Safely Installed?

Anytime you place your child in their seat, give the seat a shake to ensure the installation is still tight. Over time, it might loosen or your child may unbuckle the seatbelt. Also, after visiting the car wash, be sure your child’s seat is still tightly secured. Car wash technicians are notorious for unbuckling or moving a seat when cleaning.

What is the Most Overlooked Thing When it Comes to Car Seat Safety?

Beyond installing your car seat properly, be sure your child is also buckled up, securely. If rear facing, the shoulder strap should start just under and come over their shoulder. If front facing, the shoulder strap should start at or above the shoulder. The chest clip should fall right at their armpits.  You should not have enough slack in the harness strap fabric to pinch it, vertically.

Tot Squad Commercial for Nissan Motors

See Jennifer and the Tot Squad team in action cleaning and installing car seats and strollers on the go in this Nissan video.

Thanks so much to Jennifer for taking the time to share her experience and expertise with us to hopefully help parents everywhere ensure their children are transported carefully. You can tell how passionate and knowledgeable she is on this topic so you can trust your little tots are in good hands with these tips. Learn more about TotSquad and their locations’ full schedules, including their car seat cleaning service, at TheTotSquad.com. Follow the company on social media to find out the latest and get more cleaning and safety tips.

Is your car seat properly installed? Is it clean?

About The Author:

Sadie has a bachelor’s in communications and minor in business from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been writing about, researching and a user of security and smart home technology since 2012. As an early adapter and avid user of gadgets, she’s not only well-versed in how to use them but also passionate about helping others integrate them into their lives and homes.

Having lived in various urban neighborhoods in major cities like Dallas, Austin, Winston-Salem and currently Washington DC, Sadie has experienced her share of property crimes over the years; from car break-ins to stolen bikes. As a result, she’s extra cautious when it comes to protecting herself and her property.

Sadie attends conferences, events and webinars to stay up-to-date on cybersecurity and technology. She loves traveling the world and is a self-proclaimed Apple junkie.

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