We determined that the 2-year-old had experienced a growth spurt. In fact, she had grown so much that her shoulders were well above the harness slot routing that fit her when her parents had first installed her car seat. Now her shoulders were far above the slots where the straps emerge from the shell — a situation that is not only unsafe, but that had eventually made it difficult to buckle the harness. By simply rerouting the harness through the higher slots on the car seat (at or above the child’s shoulders), the harness fit properly and was much easier to buckle.
This situation made me think of bus drivers who transport preschool students or those with special needs. These drivers often have to manage the fit and use of not just one but multiple child safety restraint systems (CSRS) on the bus every day. Even the best efforts made at the beginning of the school year to correctly select a CSRS and set it up to fit each child can’t be expected to last the school year because, as everyone knows, kids grow.
Therefore, it is always beneficial to have a plan to regularly assess child height and weight at scheduled intervals throughout the school year. Districts that have a proactive routine to check for proper CSRS fit not only ensure child safety, they often spare on-bus personnel from daily hassles. On the other hand, programs that respond to problems after the fact may allow usage or safety problems to go on too long.
Other routine CSRS maintenance activities can yield similar rewards. The entire inventory should be logged to track the age of each CSRS, and units that have expired based on manufacturer’s recommendations should be replaced. Likewise, each CSRS should be regularly checked for wear and damage. Defective parts can sometimes be replaced, or a new CSRS might be needed. The log is also useful for keeping track of recalls on CSRS.
All of these activities take effort, but they are well worth it for children’s safety. To sweeten the deal, these efforts can lead to a CSRS fleet that makes the day-to-day life of on-bus personnel much easier.
Denise Donaldson is a certified child passenger safety technician and the editor of Safe Ride News is an independent publication based in Edmonds, Wash. The publication's mission is to develop accurate and up-to-date information on child safety, advocate for improved standards, laws, and programs related to childhood injury prevention supporting and collaborate with other organizations and agencies working in the field of child passenger safety.