Monthly Archives: December 2009

Winter car seat safety

Maybe I’ve been living in the dark, but I learned something new today that I’ve never heard mention of before,  something that seems quite important to let others know about given how often it occurs. Having a kid wear a winter coat underneath the straps in their car seat is VERY unsafe, unsafe to the point that it could seriously injure or kill the child, even in a low speed crash.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap here that has us seeing temperatures around the zero mark. With the winter weather, I have been guilty of snapping our boy  in with his coat on, adjusting the straps if necessary to accommodate. Until today I had no idea this was such a risky move.

Why this is so dangerous is a matter of physics. The force exerted in a crash is great, especially with severe deceleration, and can be several hundred or thousands of pounds in most instances. For example, a 40 pound child in a 40 MPH crash exerts 1600 pounds of force! The coat will compress in a crash and leave the harness slack, allowing excessive movement of the child’s head or even ejection. The more slack there is, the greater the chance of serious head or neck injuries. Ejection from the seat is especially of concern with infants.

This blog has an example that shows the difference in slack between a child strapped in with their coat on and the same child without.  It may seem like you’ve tightened the straps properly even with the coat, but it’s not enough. There is no way you can exert the amount of force needed to counteract the effects of compression.

So what are some alternatives??

  • Have the child wear the coat backwards, putting their arms in after they’re buckled in.
  • Use a blanket tucked around the child.
  • Add a thin coat or shirt underneath, like a fleece.
  • Use special products, made just for use in car seats. Make sure they do not come between your child and the straps.
  • If you are unwilling to leave the child sans-coat, try this trick of fastening the front of the coat OVER the straps. This leaves a little bulk for compression in the back but is much safer than leaving the coat on as-is.

The rule of thumb (even for non-winter car seat use) is that you should not be able to get more than one finger width between the strap and the child.

Car crashes are the number one killer of US children ages 1-14. Many of the children killed were in child seats, just not restrained correctly.  I plan to work harder to make sure that my son is restrained properly. The inconvenience of removing his coat in no way compares to the increased risk of leaving it on.

Additional info:
Directions to check your coat for car seat safety, and other tips to keep your child warm and safe

Winter Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Basics

Cell phone radiation exposure

For a long time now I’ve been considering getting a new cell phone. I simply don’t like the hardware or the interface for my existing phone and it may be just my imagination, but using it for any length of time makes my face and teeth on that side feel “funny”.

Ever since learning about the potential dangers of cell phone radiation, number one on criteria list for a new model (after the simple ability to place and receive calls) is that it emits only a low level of radiation. Since I’m changing phones anyway, there’s no better time to get a safer phone and reduce exposure for myself and my family.

As I’ve been considering different options, I’ve been evaluating them using the Environmental Working Group’s cell phone radiation look up tool, however not all potential phones are on there. (With the rate cell phone manufacturers produce new models I don’t expect them to be able to keep up either!)

When looking at phones today it occurred to me that for those not in the database, I could research to find the radiation level from the manufacturer. I found that what I need to search for is called the SAR Value. SAR stands for Specific Absorption Rate and gives an indication of the amount of radiation absorbed by your head when using the phone. The higher the number, the more that is absorbed. Using the EWG scale as a model, it looks like the best phones on the market right now have a maximum SAR under 0.55 W/kg.

Some manufacturers have pages or search engines that allow you took to look up the SAR value for all their phones. For others you might have to resort to a Google search. Typically if you use the phone model plus SAR you will find the number.  You can also attempt to look them up on the Mobile Manufacturers Forum site.

Alternatively, if you just happen to have the phone handy, or can capture the information from a display model or other source, you can also look this up using the FCC ID number. This info is found on the label under the battery — hardly practical when researching a new phone.

As more consumers learn about the potential dangers, especially to kids whose brains are still developing, I feel confident we’ll see a rise in the number of phones designed to emit low levels of radiation. In the meantime, in addition to getting a low radiation phone, following some of the EWG’s safety tips seems like a wise move. I’m hopeful that the FCC will soon wake up and re-examine the regulations in order to improve the standards. There’s also a lot that could be done to make this kind of information more readily available to consumers.