Q: Hey, Scott! Thanks for taking the time to discuss all things car seat and child passenger safety with us. Firstly, you’re a certified CPST. For any noobs out there, what does that mean?
CPST stands for Child Passenger Safety Technician. It means that I’ve gone through a certification process which includes class time taught by CPST Instructors, car seat checks, continuing education and a re-certification process. CPSTs are certified by the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program. They partner with Safe Kids Worldwide, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Child Passenger Safety Board. Anyone over the age of 18 can take the class and become a certified CPST. I’ve been certified since 2011.
Q: Diono has been dedicated to child passenger safety since 1999. A lot has changed since then. What are the most notable differences and innovations that you’ve seen over the years when it comes to car seat safety?
Extended rear-facing is a big one. Kids are safer when they ride rear-facing so we want them to ride that way until they reach the rear-facing height or weight capacity of their car seat. A lot of states now have “Rear-facing until Two” laws which is great! Car seats have also become easier to use and install which hopefully translates to more car seats being used and installed correctly. Technology has also improved over the years and while all car seats have to pass the same Federal standards, some seats have more advanced features than others.
Q: Why is it so important for parents and caregivers to take car seat safety seriously?
As parents and caregivers, it’s up to us to make sure our child passengers are as safe as possible. About half of all car seats on the road are not installed or used correctly. Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children under the age of 14, and they can happen anywhere at any time. The most protection we can give them is making sure their car seat is appropriate for their height and weight, is installed correctly and they are restrained correctly…every single time we drive. According to NHTSA a correctly installed car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants, and 54% for toddlers.
Q: What is the first piece of advice you would give to a parent or caregiver before purchasing a car seat and why?
Set a budget and do as much research as you can so you can narrow your choices down to a few car seats that you’re going to consider. All seats pass the same Federal standards, and some seats have more advanced features than others, but those extra features often come at a higher price. Talk to your friends, neighbors, join some parent groups or car seat forums, and ask what experiences others have had with the seats you’re considering. You’ll also want to ask if other parents have successfully installed seats in the same vehicle as yours. This is where car seat forums and parent experience can really pay off. Some retailers will let you try the seats out before you buy to make sure they’re compatible with your vehicle, so take advantage of that if it’s an option.
Q: What is the first piece of advice you would give to a parent or caregiver after purchasing their car seat and why?
Before you do anything, sit down with the car seat manual and your vehicle manual and read them. Then, read them again. Not every car seat or vehicle is the same so you want to familiarize yourself with the installation of your car seat and your vehicle’s recommendations and specifics for installing car seats. This will go a long way in helping you correctly install your car seat. If you still have questions, you can call your car seat manufacturer’s customer service, or go to their website for installation videos. Most manufacturers have a CPST on staff for more technical questions so don’t be afraid to ask to speak with one. You can also find a CPST in your area by going to the Safe Kids website: https://cert.safekids.org/
Q: Is there much difference between car seat safety for newborns, infants, and toddlers? Why is it so important to check at each stage?
Child passenger safety is important at every stage of a child’s development. The key is making sure your child is in a seat that is appropriate for their height and weight. Kids grow at different rates and you might not notice that your child’s harness straps need to be adjusted, or that they’re approaching the height or weight limit for their car seat. This is why it’s important to check those things every ride. Always check to make sure the seat is installed properly and that the harness is in the right position. For rear-facing kids the harness straps should be at or below the shoulders. For forward-facing kids the harness straps should be above the shoulders. For booster kids you want to make sure the lap belt is low across the hips/thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the shoulder at the collar bone. If you get in the habit of checking those things every ride you’ll be more aware of when it’s time to adjust things, or get a new seat if one is outgrown, or transition to the next car seat or booster.
Q: What are your duties as our very own CPST?
At Diono, I review user-generated content that we’re tagged in to make sure our products are being used correctly before we repost those images. I also shoot most of our photography and a lot of our videos. If we hire someone else for photos or videos, then I’m on set to make sure seats are installed correctly and kids are harnessed correctly. I assist our Customer Service Team with more technical questions and virtual installations, and I’m a historical resource for some of our older products. I answer online questions submitted by our customers, and I try to keep up with some of the car seat forums and any questions or discussions that are Diono specific. I’m also the liaison between Diono and the rest of the CPST community. And I collaborate with our awesome Marketing team on articles like this!