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  • Writer's pictureRyne

"It's Not Your Fault" Sharing Anders's Story with Car Seat Manufacturers

Rachel sat down with Carma Hanson in her office at Safe Kids Grand Forks in late June 2019. Rachel told Carma our story - about Anders being left in the car seat to take a nap at daycare, about how he lost the ability to breathe when his head slumped forward, and about the three days we prayed for Anders to be healed while on life support in the hospital.


Rachel’s meeting with Carma led to an invitation from the Safe Kids Worldwide office to attend PrevCON in Washington D.C. later that summer. We were brought to PrevCON, their Prevention Convention focused on preventing preventable injury and death in kids, as parent advocates. We weren’t there to present. Nothing was required of us. We were given an opportunity to take in the convention and share our story when we found it appropriate to do so.


When we arrived at PrevCON, we were treated like royalty. We were invited to special events, we were taken out to eat, and we met Safe Kids coordinators from around the world. We even spent time with Safe Kids president and sat at one of the tables in the front row for all of the keynote addresses.


It had been six months since Anders died and we had shared our story on social media but had done little more than that. Rachel wrote our story and Carma printed out full-color copies for us to distribute at the conference. We weren’t scared of sharing our story but I wasn’t sure before the conference when I would have the chance to share about Anders.


Opportunities were endless. People were attentive and great listeners. In a crowd of people that are looking to prevent preventable tragedies, it felt like our story was an example for them of why their work is so important.


I hadn’t thought much about the car seat manufacturers that would be at the conference vendor hall. I figured car seat companies would be represented, but I wasn’t sure how sharing our story would go with their sales reps.


My brother is an engineer and in the time immediately following Anders’s death he started to think about redesigning car seats, or selling attachments for car seats to make sure that when they are outside of the car and resting on the floor, the angle of the seat is the same as the angle while in the car. That made sense to us as well.


Entering the vendor hall for the first time, with our fliers in hand sharing Anders’s story, Rachel and I were looking to see the car seat companies that were represented. When I’ve entered vendor areas at conferences, I typically am quiet and reserved. I try to stay away from the tables and observe from afar.


Rachel and I were the same way the first time we looked around the hall. We looked at all the different companies and noted which car seat manufacturers were present.


When Rachel and I went up to the first of five manufacturers, we were met with a kind representative who teared up as we started to share about Anders. It was a car seat that her company had made that was the last place both Rachel and I saw Anders healthy. She was heartbroken by our loss. This was someone who dedicated herself to protecting the youngest members of our society.


“I know it’s not your fault.” I told her as we continued to share.


We weren’t there to blame, we were there to share our testimony. As our conversation continued, Rachel mentioned my brother’s idea of a kickstand for when the car seat is outside the car.


That’s when everything came full circle for me. While she liked the idea of the kickstand, the reality is that car seats aren’t designed as sleep devices. Adding an attachment that helps a car seat to operate as a sleeping device opens up car seat manufacturers to a whole different set of safety standards that often conflict with the sole purpose of a car seat: to keep kids safe during an automobile accident.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. Car seat manufacturers have taken on an enormous responsibility to provide the best possible product to the consumer. When it leaves the factory though, there’s not much that these companies can do.


The NHTSA estimates that at least 46% of car seats are used improperly. [Find a Safe Kids Car Seat Check event here.] Safe Kids Worldwide reports that a properly installed car seat reduces the risk of fatality by 71%. Why is this something worth noting? Car seat companies have a big task in front of them already, and that is to keep kids safe in the environment in which they are designed to be kept safe.


When a child falls asleep in a properly installed car seat in a vehicle, the angle of the seat is mostly safe. There is still a slight risk for positional asphyxia, but the risk of a sleep-related issue is minuscule compared to the risk associated with an automobile crash.


Over the next two days of PrevCON, we took the time to meet with all of the manufacturers and share our story. The message from the reps was consistent - there is an education issue that causes these preventable injuries and deaths in car seats.


Rachel and I tell our story in part so that no other parents bury a child because a caregiver didn’t know the dangers associated with car seats outside of a vehicle. We’ve met so many people that were unaware of the dangers.


I’ve written about it before, but there is a saying that is often shared around infants that is flawed and potentially fatal. “Never wake a sleeping baby.” The premise makes sense - babies need rest and it can be difficult to get babies to fall asleep if they wake up. But the results can be devastating.


It’s really about the ABCs of Safe Sleep.


A - Alone - baby is kept in their own crib or bassinet, not in the same bed as a parent or caretaker

B - Back - baby should be placed to sleep on their back

C - Crib - baby should be kept in a crib or bassinet that contains a flat and firm mattress with no crib bumpers, pillows, blankets, or toys

It may sound boring, but safe sleep practices are all about preventing the preventable, and that is worth being boring.

Boring saves lives.

If you are a parent of an infant and they spend time in car seats outside of the base in a car, understand the purpose of the seat. Our kids are worth whatever inconvenience waking them from a peaceful sleep causes.


If you are not yet following experts in the field on car seat and sleep safety, here are a few recommendations.

The last item of note: In the next week or so, and interview I did with pediatrician Dr. Phil Boucher will be releasing where I share our story and we have a conversation about car seats and safe sleep. I will link that here when it is public.

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