During the last year I have been reading up on Car Seat Information. I even briefly considered taking the course to become a Certified Car Seat Safety Technician, but the class fell on a week when I was 36 weeks pregnant and one of my babies was starting kindergarten… I just couldn’t miss that! Since I am not certified or really the one to ask about these issues here is the first part of my interview with Maryanne, a CPST.
How did you become interested in Car Seat Safety?
Maryanne: Thanks to some online parenting forums, I found out that you could find technicians to check your seats for you. When Mila was about 3 months old, I went to get our seat checked at our local police station. I made some very common errors that the technician corrected. Her next appointment never arrived, so she and I spent over an hour chatting about car safety, crash dynamics, car seat, etc. I found the whole subject fascinating and she told me that I should look into taking a technician course myself.
What is a CPST?
Maryanne: CPST = Child Passenger Safety Technician. Technicians take a 4-5 day course that includes 1 hands-on seat belt identification exam, 1 hands-on car seat installation exam, and 1 written exam. The course is a mix of classroom time and time spent in cars with car seats. We learn about child restraint laws, crash dynamics, physics, types of seats, types of seat belts, special needs, and how to work with the public. The course end in a seat check where the technicians work with the public. You can only be a CPST if you pass all the exams and participate in the seat check. Every 2 years, you must re-certify. Re-certification includes participating in seat checks or public education events, attaining continuing education credits so you remain up-to-date, and you must perform 5 different types of installations and have them reviewed by an Instructor. Certification is key because it ensures that all techs are staying current on best practices and all techs have been thoroughly trained to the same standards.
What do you do as a CPST?
Maryanne: Technicians spend time at seat checks where they inspect car seats, educate parents, and teach the parent how to install their seats properly. We also participate in public safety events where we hand out educational materials, speak to parents, and do demonstrations.
What are some common mistakes that you see when you check car seats?
- Facing forward too soon
- Boosters being used too soon
- Using LATCH for center positions when LATCH is not allowed in the center for that vehicle
- Loose straps
- Aftermarket accessories
- Twisted straps (vehicle seat belts, latch straps, and harness straps)
- Using the wrong belt path or not switching the LATCH straps (seats have different belt/LATCH paths for RF and FF)
- Chest clips too low
- Using seats that are outgrown
- Seat belt installs where the seat belt is NOT locked
- Not using top tethers
- Using both LATCH and seat belt
- Not replacing a seat after a crash
- Expired seats
- Thick coats
- Usage of seats that are recalled
- Children (12 and under) sitting in the front seat
- Not reading the carseat manual
- Not reading the vehicle manual
- Straps not in the right position (above or below shoulders)
How can people find a CPST to check their car seats?
Maryanne: The fastest way is to look online at National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program.
Anything else you would like to add:
Maryanne: Car safety is so important because vehicular crashes are the leading cause of death for those age 34 and under. Our children are particularly vulnerable because of their small size. Very simple changes in the way that parents use their car seats can literally save their child’s life in a crash. It is always worth it to take the time to see a technician.