Harford County Child Car Seat Inspections

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I just saw in today’s edition of the Aegis an ad for the Harford County Health Department’s Child Safety Seat Inspections. They’ll install infant, toddler and booster seats into the backseats of Harford County residents’ cars for free between 9 a.m. and noon on the first Wednesday of the month and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month. But it’s by appointment only so you need to call the health department’s Injury Prevention Coordinator at 410-638-8424. I’m posting this here because car safety seats are one of my biggest parental conundrums. When I had my first child, my husband and I registered for a souped up stroller-carseat combination with oversized tires called the “Adventurer.” We dutifully read all the directions and installed the car seat well before my son’s due date. We made sure the little leveling ball visible on the side of the plastic seat was nestled right on the middle line, proving we had done the job properly. After he was born and was riding around quite a bit in that seat, we went to a car safety seat inspection in Delaware, where we lived at the time, and discovered we had not done the job right — not at all. The inspector came out to the grocery store parking lot where the inspections were being held armed with cut pieces of foam swimming noodles and rubberized kitchen drawer liner. (None of these things came in the car safety seat box. Nor where they mentioned in the directions.) She reached into the backseat, where we had installed the seat in the midddle — the recommended spot — and wiggled the seat. It moved more than an inch in either direction. She told us this was not good. “But we followed the directions,” we told her. “We got the little levelling ball to rest in the middle,” we said. She told us these things don’t matter at all.
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The seat has to be jammed in place so tightly it won’t move more than an inch to the right or to the left. She pulled the baby seat out of the car and lined the spot where it would lay with the rubberized liner to give it traction. Then she tucked a shortened length of the foam swimming noodle under the back of the seat (I’m still not sure what that was for). She climbed into the car herself, placed her adult-sized knees into the baby seat and, while holding the part of the seatbelt that tightens the strap, she jumped up and down on it for about five minutes. (This was before cars came with those tether hooks to help hold the car seat in place.) She emerged sweaty and slightly out of breath and I vowed to never, ever remove that seat until my son could drive the car on his own. Unfortunately, the vibration of the car does loosen the seat. And kids grow and need larger seats installed. When I’ve had to do it myself, it’s a sweaty, curse-fillled session in the garage with the car seat’s tiny pointy parts jamming into my knees. When it’s hot outside, it’s a particularly miserable job. When my children’s grandparents kindly offer to drive the kids somewhere if only I’d put the car seat in their car, I tell them “No way.” I’ll drive them myself, but I’m not touching that seat. I fail to grasp why these seats, government mandated and so terribly expensive, are so difficult to install properly.
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Some cars are now made with child car seats built-in, which makes a lot of sense to me. But I have to laugh a little when I see those statistics from time to time that say 80 percent of all child safety seats are improperly installed. Can’t imagine why.

Here are some good car safety seat resources:
Child Passenger Safety: Fact Sheet
2006 Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings
Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families

Good luck.