I officially have a new shero. And her superpower is installing car seats.
After my recent post about car seat safety, I had an opportunity to book a service with Dr. Maria Gonzalez, owner of My Car Seat Install. As a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), she offers a variety of services that include selecting car seats, vehicle installation, and group education classes. A mom herself, she became interested in child passenger safety around the time her first son was born, and then became passionate about teaching others how to correctly use and install their car seats. Having started her business in Dallas, Maria recently brought her talents to South Beach to serve families here in Miami.
Maria met me on a Friday morning, at a time and location that were convenient for me. I filled out some paperwork and we got started with my son’s seat: he’s 5 years old, and rides forward-facing with a harness in a Graco Nautilus 65. So out the seat came, and in went Maria to check all of the passenger seat belts. I didn’t think much of it at the time. A lot of research went into choosing our car seats, reading the seat manuals, watching YouTube videos, and installing them according to the instructions.
But what I didn’t know, and what no amount of research, FB group threads, and reading could tell me, is that the passenger seat belts on our old Dodge Caravan were unacceptable for locking car seats.
According to the vehicle manual, the van was equipped with locking latch plates–mechanisms on the seat belt that causes it to lock in the event of a crash. But it turns out that the angle the latch plate was in, as it came through the seat belt path, was rendering it ineffective for car seat locking. Translation: the seat belt we were using to secure the car seat may not have locked properly in the event of an accident. Cue hyperventilating in a bag as I realized how dangerously we’d unknowingly been driving all over town.
Thank God for that locking clip.
When you install new car seats, you sometimes find random pieces that don’t seem to serve any purpose attached to the back of the seats. For us, one of those pieces was a locking clip. I legit had no idea what it was or what it was for until about a week ago; but it became my saving grace that day. Maria showed me what it was, taught me how to use it to secure my son’s seat correctly, and then observed me while I applied what I’d learned. And though it was a challenge, I drove away feeling relieved that my son’s car seat was secured, and confident knowing that I could safely install it myself.
Maria also checked the installation of my daughter’s seat. She’s 15 months old, and rides rear-facing in a Chicco KeyFit 30 infant seat; but with about an inch of clearance from the top of the shell, she is ready to transition to a rear-facing convertible, 3-in-1, or all-in-one seat. Knowing what she knew about our minivan’s seat belts, she was able to recommend some car seats that come equipped with an internal seat belt lock-off mechanism, and a higher lower anchor weight limit. It’s really helpful to know exactly what we need to look for as we begin shopping for a new seat.
I had a great experience and learned a TON during my appointment. For more information about child passenger safety, car seats and the services that My Car Seat Install provides, be sure to visit their website or find them on Facebook. And don’t forget to mention that you heard about them on Miami Moms Blog!
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