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Home / Car Seat Safety: My Doctor Isn’t The Expert?

Car Seat Safety: My Doctor Isn’t The Expert?

Whilst attempting to prove me wrong, my husband actually said to me the other day, “What, you don’t believe me?  Google it like you do everything else!” Yep.  He got me there.  I like to ask questions.  Most of us do! We ask our BFFs how long a fever should last before going to the doctor, we ask the Cartwheel App if it has secret coupon codes before we check out at Target, and we ask the internet about parenting topics.  A lot.  So many questions.  It’s easy to find the answer for just about anything… but this is both a blessing and a curse.

We shouldn’t take the internet’s word as gospel on certain topics and this includes car seat safety.  This is not to say that you should turn to your doctor or your BFF for help with that topic either – unless your doctor or BFF also happens to be a CPST.  A Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) is specially trained on how to select and install an appropriate car seat for your child based on your child’s height, weight, age, and your budget.  This is no easy task when you consider the overwhelmingly huge array of options at our disposal, the number of children you may be caring for at any given day (carpool, anyone?), and the staggeringly huge number of vehicles on the road today.  Nobody is going to be an expert at this – but every single CPST has been through the training required to help you get the answers you need.  Most doctors and most BFFs have not been through this training.  They know what worked for them, and they might know what worked for others, but most do not know best practice recommendations and the life-saving reasons for said recommendations.

Did you know that there is no formal car seat training offered to pediatricians outside of the CPST course?  Therefore, besides the AAP’s recommendations, they really have nothing to go on except personal use or patients’ use.  I commonly hear “my pediatrician said I could turn my 13 month old forward facing” or “her doctor said she’s too big for a booster so we ditched it when she turned 8”.  And hey, I get it!  I don’t have a string of letters after my name that indicates that I spent 7+ years becoming educated on a broad range of topics.  I do, however, have over 3 years experience working with countless families to keep their kids safe.  CPSTs like myself are also required to keep up to date with car seat manufacturers, we attend conferences and workshops to earn credits toward recertification, and much of what we learn is learned in the field; most of the time we can spot an issue a mile away and we can help troubleshoot it.

It is not “fine” for a 9 year old to ride without a booster seat if the seat belt doesn’t fit her correctly without it; that means when she is approximately 57″ tall and 80-100lbs.  To do so puts the child at risk for internal injuries and ejection in a crash, something we’d all obviously like to avoid.

This is an important time to stress that I am in no way disrespecting pediatricians and doctors.  Their job is invaluable for many reasons, far too many to get into here, but suffice to say I have great respect for their contribution to society and lifesaving work.  They deserve all the props.  But until they learn best practice car seat recommendations they shouldn’t give car seat advice.

So, to recap:

Questions to ask your child’s doctor:

  1. Does this rash look funny to you?
  2. What is the average age of potty readiness for a boy?
  3. Should I be concerned that my child insists on eating only noodles?
  4. What specialist do you recommend for this issue?
  5. What is your favorite brand of coffee?

Questions to ask your local CPST:

  1. Why is rear facing safer than forward facing?
  2. How can I attach the forward facing tether in my truck?
  3. What are the legal requirements for my child to ride without a car seat?
  4. How does my car seat recline?  Does it even recline?!
  5. What is your favorite brand of coffee?
Your pediatrician is an incredible resource.  Of course, you should absolutely feel free to ask questions to your heart’s content, but think of it this way: would you ask them to run new electrical in your child’s room? Always seek out the trained professionals with experience in the field.   Go to to find a tech near you!
Author: Dana

Dana is the lucky mother to two incredible kids (aged 10 & 6) and the happy wife of Nate. She stumbled around in her adult life for a while before finally realizing that she could get paid to pursue her passion: keeping kids safe. In 2013 she started working at Modern Natural Baby in Ferndale where she eventually became a Child Passenger Safety Technician with additional Special Needs training. Dana also runs the child passenger safety-focused Facebook page Buckle Up Detroit and works with the amazing lady bosses at Metro Detroit Doula Services offering car seat classes, consultations, and more!