10 car seat safety tips from an expert. Some of these might surprise the most seasoned parent.

Did you know that car accidents are a leading cause of preventable death for children between the ages of 1 and 13? That's a fact.

But we can keep our kids safer by installing and correctly using car and booster seats. And before you roll your eyes and say, “Yeah yeah. Been there, done that," you need to hear what pediatrician Dr. Alisa Baer, also known as The Car Seat Lady, has to say:


“Studies show that even for parents who are on their fourth kid, car seat installation is one of the few things that people tend not to get better at."

This can truly be a matter of life and death, so buckle up — metaphorically, of course — and take a few minutes to read about these ten extremely important tips from Baer.

1. Keep the car seat straps snug.

Image by NHTSA.

“Most kids are riding around with straps that are too loose," Baer says. Properly secured snug straps, despite protests from some kids, don't cause pain. “If you're going to jump out of an airplane with a parachute, you're not going to think, 'Oh, it's snug! Let me loosen it!'" she explains.

Think of the car seat straps the same way. If you need guidance on how to ensure the straps are snug, check out this video. Also be sure to remove any bulky clothing. Things like winter coats usually make it necessary to loosen straps — which in turn makes them far less effective.

2. Keep kids rear-facing for as long as possible.


Image by NHTSA.

Once your child outgrows an infant car seat — which is always rear-facing — they'll move into a convertible car seat. Those can be used either in a rear- or forward-facing position. But “can" and “should" are two different things. Baer says you should always keep your child rear-facing until age 2 — and ideally longer, until they reach the rear-facing limits of the car seat. That shouldn't happen until your kiddo is at least 2 years old, but even then, if they're below the maximums for the car seat, don't flip them around!

A common misconception among parents is that there's a greater risk for leg injuries in the event of a crash in rear-facing car seats because it appears as though a child's legs are scrunched up. Baer assured me that kids are actually at a greater risk for leg injuries when they're forward-facing because in an accident, their feet make contact with the seat in front of them, which is simultaneously moving backward. The result is a compression injury, something that doesn't happen when the child is rear-facing.

“The leg injuries we see when a child is rear-facing are usually due to a direct impact from the intruding vehicle. At that point, it doesn't matter which way your child is facing," says Baer.

3. When your child becomes too big to rear-face, keep them as safe as possible when forward-facing.

Image by NHTSA.

“The goal now that we've turned your child forward, which makes their brain and spine less safe than when they were rear-facing," says Baer, “is to keep them as safe as we can." You can accomplish that by using the tether strap that comes on every single forward-facing car seat sold in the U.S. The tether secures to a top tether anchor point in your vehicle. This is where you'll need to break out that vehicle owner's manual to find where they're located. Since 2000, all vehicles sold in the U.S. are required to have anchors where you can secure the tethers in at least three seating positions. Got a minivan or SUV? Most of these vehicles do NOT have tether anchors in all the rear seats. Find the tether anchors and always use them for forward-facing car seats.

“Forward-facing protection is greatly enhanced by the tether," Baer explains. “It decreases how far the child's head moves in a crash by at least four to six inches. When you factor in that most seats are too loose, that can mean a difference of 12 inches or more." Because you only want your child's head to hit air in a crash and not the seat in front of them, the tethers on forward-facing car seats are vital.

Image by NHTSA.

LATCH can be confusing. It stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. LATCH is comprised of both parts on the car seat and parts in the vehicle, Baer explains. The government requires all vehicles model year 2003 and newer in the U.S. to have at least two seating positions with lower anchors and at least three positions with tether anchors. The lower anchors are meant to replace the use of the vehicle's seat belt. Most car seats (not booster seats, but actual car seats that have a five-point harness system) can be secured to the lower anchors in vehicles by using the LATCH belt on the child's car seat.

Illustration by The Car Seat Lady, used with permission.


Baer emphasized that no matter how you install the forward-facing car seat — whether with a seat belt or the lower anchors — you should always use the tether. “If you're forward-facing seat is installed with the seat belt, use the tether in addition to the seat belt," she said. “If your forward-facing seat is installed with lower anchors, use the tether in addition to the lower anchors."

So, one more time, because it's that important: Always use the tether on every forward-facing car seat!

4. Don't start using a booster seat too soon — and don't stop using a booster seat too soon.

Image by NHTSA.

For a child to safely use a booster seat, they must be at least 4 years old, weigh 40 pounds, and be mature enough to sit properly in the booster — “no slouching, no leaning over, and no playing with the seat belt." Because of that, Baer says that most kids are generally around 6 years old before they're ready for a booster seat.

When it comes to letting kids dump their booster seats, Baer notes that many parents are doing it too soon. “The goal of a booster is to keep the belt property positioned on a child's body, specifically so the lap belt stays in position on the child's lower hips during a crash."

Baer says that there's a pattern of injuries resulting from children being in accidents while not in booster seats that, while not always fatal, are life altering — things like lower spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis and bladder and bowel injuries.

The way to prevent those? Keep your kiddo in a booster until the seat belt fits exactly the same without the booster as it does with it. (Check out the five-step test for guidance.) Most kids are 10 to 12 years old before they can ride safely without a booster.

5. Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up.

Besides keeping all of your adult passengers alive, ensuring everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt means they can't become human torpedoes in the event of an accident. “Studies show that if an adult rides in the back without a buckle, the other people in the car are up to three times more likely to die in the same crash because the unbuckled adult is now a human missile," says Baer.

That sounds rather gruesome — and that's because it is. If a car seat is covering a seat belt buckle, for example, reinstall the car seat so that the buckle is available for the adult. It's about everyone's safety.

6. After you install your child's car seat, have it checked by a trained technician.

Image by NHTSA.

While many people think they can swing by a fire or police department to accomplish this, “not even 50% of them have someone trained" to do that, Baer says.

Instead, go to seatcheck.org, where you can enter your zip code to find a trained technician near you.

7. Remember that the center seat is generally the safest spot in the car for kids.

Image by NHTSA.

Children in the center seat won't take a direct hit in an accident, and there's less to hit their head on when they're in a forward-facing car seat. If you have more than one child, remember that your oldest is typically the least protected. “A newborn, for example, is more protected because they're rear-facing," Baer explains. The middle seat often doesn't have the lower anchors, which means you'll need to use the seat belt to secure the car seat (or if your child is in a booster, they'll be using the belt anyway). And remember: If your kiddo is in a forward-facing car seat, use the tether!

8. Don't text or talk on the phone while driving.

“We're not going to make a dent in fatalities until we decrease distracted driving," Baer notes. “We have an obligation to make sure not only our children, but everyone else's children are safe on the road."

9. Car seats expire!

It's not that the car seat industry is out to get your hard-earned cash, Baer says, but rather that "car seats are made of plastic, and plastic is a material that gets brittle with age. You need a seat to be strong enough to withstand an crash." Different car seats have different expiration dates, although they typically last six to eight years. Be sure you know when yours needs replacing — particularly if you're using it with more than one child.

Speaking of which, be sure to put a lot of thought into borrowed or hand-me-down car seats. You should never buy a used car seat online. If you're going to share with friends or use it for more than one child, infant seats that are in good condition are better candidates for sharing than convertible car seats or boosters, which are used for longer and generally experience more wear and tear.

10. If you've been in an accident, there's a good chance that your car seat needs replacing.

Image by iStock.

This holds true regardless of whether your child was in the car seat when the accident occurred because even an empty seat still absorbs some of the force of the crash. Baer says most manufacturers advise that the car seat requires replacement no matter the severity of the crash, but some seats have a “minor crash protocol." You can check her website to learn more.

The top three most common mistakes Baer sees are car seats that are too loose in the car, kids that are too loose in the car seats, and children who are graduated too soon (from rear-facing to forward facing or car seat to booster, for example). With some effort and care, we can all avoid those mistakes and more. It's a lot of info to absorb, but we're talking about our kids' lives.

via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."