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What To Expect From a CPST

One of the most common refrains that I hear when finishing up a seat check is “I didn’t expect there to be so much information!”  I choose to take it as a compliment.  There’s really quite a lot to learn!  You don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you and hopefully, the person telling you knows what they’re talking about.

That’s where Child Passenger Safety Technicians come in.  CPSTs like myself have been specially trained in the selection and installation of car seats as well as how to use them correctly.  Our job is to impart that wisdom in an easy to understand, non-judgmental manner.  But what, specifically, can you expect from a tech?

At my seat checks I go over:

  • installation basics
  • proper harness/seat belt fit
  • adjusting the seat to fit your growing child
  • where to find pertinent information in your manuals
  • car seat AND vehicle recalls
  • general car seat safety (how to safely keep baby warm, airplane travel, etc)
  • general vehicle safety (securing projectiles, preventing seat belt strangulation, etc)
  • how to contact the car seat manufacturer and the importance of registering the seat
  • what to do if you’re in a crash
  • any and all of your questions!

A very common misconception is that techs are an installation service.  Our primary job is to educate, not install; you, as the caregiver, will install the seat before leaving.  You won’t always have us in your back pocket and I can guarantee you’ll need to move the seat at some point so you need to know how to do it! We will demonstrate and empower you to do the work.

I carry a checklist with me to document any changes I make to the seat or anything I’ve recommended.  The caregiver will fill out information about the vehicle, car seat, and child’s stats and will initial at the end of the check to approve any changes; this is for liability reasons and generally speaking, this information stays with the tech (unless you’re at a large seat check event or you’re given a replacement seat).  It’s also helpful in the case of re-checks so I can look back at my notes.

Some places offer car seat checks but they do not have CPSTs on staff.  I have personally seen dangerously installed car seats installed by people who say they are techs but they are not.  This can happen anywhere, from fire stations to car dealerships.  Any CPST that you work with should be able to prove that they are currently certified.  This is so very important!  Techs must re-certify every two years and we have to take continuing education credits to be able to do so.  Not every tech will be searchable on the Safe Kids website but all current techs should carry their certification card, so don’t be afraid to ask!

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!