Insights Series with CPST Juliana on Car Seat Safety
In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, we went live on Instagram with certified car seat safety expert and consultant, Juliana Amador, from Car Seat and More. She shares her journey on becoming a child passenger safety technician (CPST) and insider tips for parents on shopping for, installing, and avoiding common mistakes with car seats.
What is typically the role of a CPST?
Okay, so what we do as a CPST is pretty much teach parents and caregivers the proper use of a car seat, meaning the installation, fitting your child in it, and the best safety practices. So, that's, in a nutshell, what we do.
What are your top tips for child passenger safety?
I would say, first and foremost, it's crucial to know your car seat. Understand which type of car seat you're looking for, whether it's an infant car seat, a toddler seat, or a booster seat. Knowing the appropriate stage for your child is key before heading to a store like Target or making a purchase.
The manual is very important. I know it's hard. It could be very tempting to skip because they are a little bit difficult to read sometimes but you need to read your manual for proper installation of the car seat and proper use. Then, you need to check the harness, that there is no movement, no more than one inch side to side, and top to bottom. It should be snug right on your child.
What other advice would you typically give parents when shopping for a new car seat?
You need to check a couple of things - first off, what is your lifestyle? Are you a family that travels a lot? Are you a family that travels by airplane a lot? So, then you need a lightweight car seat, or something that can convert like the Doona, for example.
Then we go on to the budget, there is something for everyone, so you have car seats that are budget friendly, and that doesn't mean they are bad car seats. All car seats are good car seats. You also have the high ends and you have something in the middle, so it depends on your budget.
Then we are going to look into the extra safety features, for example, the anti rebound bar, or side impact.
Your vehicle is very important, not all car seats are going to fit in your vehicle. You need to check if your car seat and your vehicle are compatible and especially if there are multiple car seats across the three back seats. Is it in the manual normally. You can get that information from a CPST like me, for example.We will help you to match your child, your lifestyle, your budget, and your vehicle to a car seat that’s probably going to fit better for the family.
If you don't have the access right away, then obviously you can go to websites, and there are amazing blogs about car seats.
What education/training is needed to become a CPST?
To become a CPST, there is training that requires you to complete 36 to 40 hours. During this training, you will learn about the proper usage of car seats. It's important to note that you won't cover all the car seats available in the market, given the wide variety, but you will focus on the basics of car seat installation for various types of vehicles and ensuring the proper fit for your child.
Then we have the theory part, and we learn from the book. Afterward, we move on to hands-on learning, including different types of installations such as truck installations, and so on. It's a really valuable experience. Personally, as a mom, I decided to become a CPST out of curiosity and because I realized I had been making many mistakes with my daughter. Some of those mistakes could have had serious consequences during the first six months of her life.
I thought, 'Wait, no, we need to improve our understanding of this.' So, I became a CPST."
So, your experiences with your daughter inspired you?
Yes, having my daughter and observing the mistakes that were made inspired me to become more knowledgeable about child passenger safety.I realized there's so much to know about car seats, and many people aren't aware of it. My daughter was my inspiration for becoming a CPST.
What’s the most common mistake people make when installing their car seat?
That's a great question. The most common mistake is having a loose harness. When we talk about the harness, we want it to snugly secure your child's body. It shouldn't be too loose because, in the event of an accident, a loose harness can result in the child being ejected from the car seat. Conversely, if it's too tight, you'll have a crying child in the car seat. It's important to position it at or below when rear-facing and at or above when forward-facing.
The second common mistake is with the installation. Many car seats I check are super loose, and that's a risk. You want the car seat to be tightly secured to the vehicle, whether you're using lower anchors or the seat belt installation method. Both are safe as long as it's properly done. The car seat shouldn't move more than one inch side to side or one inch up and down.
The third common mistake is not reading the car seat manual. This is crucial because during my fit checks and car seat consultations, I often ask parents if they've read the manual. Sometimes they haven't, and it's lying on the floor. So, first, get your car seat manual and make sure to register your car seat. It's very important. These are the major things: the harness in car seat installation, and a car seat that's not securely installed in the vehicle.
In Italy a law passed in 2019 making the use of anti-abandonment devices compulsory, since then the fatalities were almost zero (one fatality this past summer in which no anti abandonment device was used). With the rise of unnecessary child vehicular fatalities of heatstroke, in the CPST community, are anti abandonment devices becoming more of a conversation?
It is, actually, and we are really happy to see car seat manufacturers taking steps forward to address this issue. We really don't want to hear about a child dying in a car seat inside a vehicle where the temperature rises rapidly. We are witnessing significant changes in the market. For example, Doona has the 'sense alert,' which I love. It's super easy to use. I was playing with a 'sense alert' the other day. It's great because it will text you if you forget your child in the car.Other brands are also incorporating sensors on the chest clip. Additionally, we are seeing vehicle manufacturers using technology to alert you if you've forgotten your child in the car and need to check.
I use Waze a lot, and I've set up a child reminder on my GPS. When I reach my final destination, Waze reminds me, 'Hey, don't forget your child is in the backseat.' I think it's a great practice. We're witnessing significant progress in addressing this issue, and as CPSTs, we would love to see these devices in more car seats. It's a promising start, and I have a lot of faith in it.
Do you recommend parents to use an anti-abandonment device?
Yes, absolutely. I mean, there's no amount of money that can justify not getting an abandonment device, whether it's the SensAlert or the car seat with the chest clip sensor. Please consider using one because it can be a lifesaver. We're living in such a fast-paced environment, and as parents, we're pulled in many directions. Our routines can sometimes be disrupted.
For example, let's say I'm dropping my child off at daycare, and I forget because I had to stop for bagels, which isn't part of my usual routine. It can happen to anyone, including me. There's no judgment here because we're all human. With these devices, it's like having an extra layer of protection for your child and for yourself. So, absolutely, we strongly recommend it.
Juliana Amador is a mother, certified child passenger safety technician (CPST), and car seat safety consultant who is driven by a passion for keeping kids safe through all of their travels. For the full conversation with Juliana, check out our IG Live, or to learn more visit the Car Seat and More.
At Doona, we are all about providing products and tools to help make life easier for parents. That’s why we created smart and functional travel baby gear like our Doona Car Seat & Stroller, the fully integrated travel system that transforms in a click; as well as Liki Trike, the most compact folding tricycle on the market.