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Myth Busting

As the curriculum evolves we realize that while we provide current information on what to do in a variety of situations, there are things that are never addressed because they now are on the list of what not to do.

Why has this information changed?

In some cases, there have been updates or clarifications from manufacturers directly, or from the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety (MACPS).  In some cases, we do not know the original source of some of these practices, but old habits die hard, and we have heard reports of these practices in many parts of the country.

A reminder that the following practices are not supported by manufacturers or CPSAC’s curriculum:

Part of remaining current as a CPST — and a prerequisite for online recertification — is completing documented “car seat checks.” But what is a car seat check exactly?

Technicians provide education on the proper use and installation of car seats, booster seats and seat belts, and teach the parent or caregiver the skills needed to empower them to confidently choose, install, and use appropriate seats for the children they transport.

Most people find it hard to learn by just watching. Support the caregiver through the installation and ensure they are involved to the best of their ability. Help them today, and teach them how to do it without you tomorrow.

Installing seats for caregivers can set them up to feel that they cannot do it without a technician present. We should all strive to change our language around this when we catch ourselves saying we are doing “an installation” and instead say “a seat check” so that we all acknowledge and understand our role.

Provincial and territorial laws set out the legal minimums that drivers must follow when transporting children. As CPSTs our role is to advise caregivers of best practice, referencing the basics of the law if applicable.

It is not our role to tell a caregiver that they will get a ticket. It may be appropriate to advise someone about legal minimums. In the event that a caregiver is stopped by law enforcement, it is up to the judgement and discretion of the officer as to whether or not they may be issued a ticket.

Remember we are working to build bridges and empower caregivers. Focus on best practice and avoid scare tactics.

Defer always to the built-in angle indicator and manufacturer’s instructions, and recline a seat as much as permitted for a newborn. Do not routinely use measuring tools unless the manufacturer directs you to.

CPSAC’s curriculum is written based on the best information available at the time. As we learn more about a particular product, crash dynamics, legislative change, or technical issue the curriculum will be updated to reflect that.

It is essential that all technicians, instructors and instructor trainers educate per the guidelines in the training materials and in the manufacturer’s instructions. Using an angle indicator such as an app on your phone or a 45° angled piece of paper is not recommended by any manufacturer, and is not supported by CPSAC’s training materials. Furthermore  manufacturers are quite clear how that angle is to be achieved, whether it is by use of a towel, noodle, either, or neither. If it is not clear, or you encounter an incompatibility or difficulty, you would be advised to contact the manufacturer directly for guidance.

The Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety (MACPS) is a collaboration of numerous child restraint manufacturers and automobile manufacturers who meet and discuss issues related to child passenger safety. The complete membership list can be found here.  At times they issue harmonized statements on relevant issues, which can be found here.  MACPS has already issued a specific statement related to recline indicators:

Recline Angle Indicators

Recline indicators on car seats are set by the individual manufacturer based on protection of the child and performance of the car seat in crash testing. The recline indicator on a car seat should always be followed. If there is a compatibility issue with the recline indicator, the specific car seat manufacturer should be contacted. Never go against the recline indicator without written permission from the car seat manufacturer. (November 2012).

Technicians, instructors, and instructor trainers do not have the training to determine how a seat is engineered to perform in a crash. Manufacturer’s instructions are written to make sure that a caregiver installs the car seat the way that it has been engineered and tested to perform best.  If you have questions about how a particular recline indicator works, or how the angle of installation may affect a restraint’s performance in a crash, we would be happy to provide further information and support to you to enable you to accurately assist caregivers.

It is not okay to use a rolled towel or pool noodle to adjust the recline angle of a rear-facing car seat, unless specifically permitted by the manufacturer (a manual is unlikely to say not to use one).

Further to the above regarding angle indicators it is critical that instructions regarding how to adjust a recline angle be followed. Some manufacturers allow the use of a tightly rolled towel, some allow pool noodles, some prefer one to the other, and some do not allow use of either, instead relying entirely on a built-in adjustment mechanism. Rolled towels may be taped to retain their shape. There is no maximum to the number of noodles to use, but typically one or three are most stable and will be all that are needed. If more than one noodle is being used it is recommended to tape them together for longer term stability.

Seats are designed and constructed to protect a child in a crash, and they increasingly contain EPP and EPS foam, energy absorbing material that can be damaged if mishandled. If the seat is mistreated or damaged prior to a crash the seat may not be able to do its job.  Teach parents to successfully install a car seat using technique and leverage rather than brute strength. Even petite people can install a car seat with good body positioning and a few tips.

Do not climb or stand on or in a car seat to install it.

Installation videos are available here:

Shelf liner will not actually make a poor installation acceptable, but will instead simply mask a poor installation.  If a particular seat is not installing well in a seating position, consider an alternate seating position, an alternate restraint, or an alternate installation method where appropriate.

From MACPS: Accessories / Non-Regulated Product

Never use accessories that are not specifically recommended by your car seat manufacturer for use with your car seat. The safety and performance of your car seat and or the vehicle seat belt may be diminished. Check your instructional manual, consult with customer service or review the website of the manufacturer for your car seat and your vehicle before using any child restraint accessory. (November 2013)

Some car seat manufacturers approve use of their own brand of seat protector, where others allow use of a thin towel or similar. Regardless, ensure the seat protector or towel is not interfering with the installation.  Make sure to document any discussion or parental decision on your seat check form.

Some seats have a strap or plastic cord that attached she UAS strap to the seat. We have had reports of technicians cutting this strap during a check. If a caregiver chooses to cut this strap, that’s their choice, but as technicians we should not be altering the seat in any way.

How tight does the tether need to be?  Remove excess slack from the tether strap until the tether is snug. There may be compression between the vehicle seat and tether, but take care not to deform or damage the upholstery. There is no need to test for movement at the top of a child restraint.  Checking for movement should be done at the belt path ONLY, and prior to tightening the tether.

There has been much talk about the use of crotch rolls (a rolled receiving blanket placed behind the crotch buckle to prevent slouching in smaller babies). Using a crotch roll should be done with manufacturer permission, and in a manner directed by the manufacturer. Ensure you are positioning the crotch buckle properly, and be aware that some seats have very specific crotch buckle shortening instructions for small babies. When in doubt, check with the manufacturer.

Some infant padding is required for use with certain seats, and some is optional. Some infant padding may contribute to a poor fit with newborns, pushing their head forward and potentially blocking off their airway and some padding may be essential to keep the newborn in a safe position. Always consult the manual for guidance and never assume that padding is optional; it may have weight, installation direction, or harness height restrictions for use.