What if there was a way to help prevent one of the leading causes of childhood death, but three out of four of us were doing it incorrectly? What if you found out we were talking about something as ordinary as a car seat? What would you do?
For Gloria Del Castillo, the answer has always been clear: Help more families get it right. That’s why she is so passionate about Buckle Up for Life and her role as senior specialist of community engagement.
Buckle Up for Life is a national safety program from Toyota and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that educates parents and caregivers about the proper use of car seats, booster seats and seat belts. The program also provides free car seats to families in need.
Since its launch in 2004, Buckle Up for Life has impacted more than 100,000 people and given away more than 60,000 car seats. But the work is far from over. With Toyota’s support, Buckle Up for Life expands to new cities each summer and continues to provide guidance and education throughout the year at buckleupforlife.org.
“While it’s true that cars and trucks are safer than ever, a properly installed car seat can mean the difference between life and death in a crash,” says Del Castillo. “According to the CDC, car seats reduce the risk for injury in a crash by 71% to 82% for children when compared with seat belt use alone. That’s why Buckle Up for Life is so important and why I’m so inspired to keep expanding the program.”
Locally, the Injury Prevention Service at Children’s Health in Dallas has implemented the program over the past three years. The hospital has provided child passenger safety classes to more than 2,500 people and distributed more than 2,000 new car seats to families in need.
Tatum, a special needs patient at Children’s Health in Dallas, has benefited from the Buckle Up for Life car seat program. During one of her therapy appointments, a care team member noticed that Tatum had outgrown her car seat and told her mom, Shinee, about the Car Seat Program at Children’s Health. Shinee called and was able to attend the Buckle Up for Life event at a local church.
For Shinee and her family, attending the event made a huge difference. “It seems like something so small, but it has given me such peace of mind, especially given that her injuries stemmed from a car accident,” Shinee says. “We can go places like the park together now, and I know she is safe. It has changed our life.”
Additionally, volunteers from Toyota Hispanic employee engagement group — TODOS — have been essential in helping Children’s Health at car seat events for the past three years. At these events, car seat technicians educate caregivers on proper car seat installation and harnessing of their children, while volunteers interact with the children and help check vehicles for safety recalls.
“It is inherent as a mobility company to make sure that families have the resources and education they need to help keep their children safe on the road,” says Al Smith, group vice president, chief social innovation officer, Toyota Motor North America. “The program has been so successful that we have spread it to cities throughout the country and recently added an additional layer to provide safety recall checks on vehicles — no matter the make or model — during events.”
At recent safety awareness events, volunteers checked attendees’ vehicles for open recalls, including the Takata Airbag Recall. The National Highway Safety Administration says there will be 65 to 70 million defective Takata airbag inflators recalled by 19 automakers by the end of 2019. Volunteers then helped families schedule their free repair with their local dealership.
In recognition of National Safety Month in June, Buckle Up for Life is sharing expert advice to help families keep their littlest passengers safe during the busy summer travel season and beyond.
Top car seat tips and techniques from Buckle Up for Life
- Use the “inch test” and “pinch test”: After you’ve buckled your child into his or her car seat, pinch the strap near his or her shoulders. If you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug. Then grab the car seat at the bottom where it is attached to the car and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it.
- Save the towels for your beach chair: Car seats can get hot in the summer weather; however don’t place towels between your child and the car seat to keep them cool. Extra material could interfere with the seat’s ability to restrain the child in the event of a crash.
- Just like sunscreen, car seats expire: Extreme weather changes can be stressful on car seat components. It is best to check the expiration date on your car seat, as the plastic in the seat and the integrity of the fabric in the straps can degrade over time. The expiration date can usually be found on a sticker affixed to the seat or the registration card.
- Secure loose items in the car: Make sure all loose items — particularly summer travel essentials such as beach chairs, coolers, umbrellas and suitcases — are tightly secured in your vehicle. These objects could become projectiles in the event of a crash.
- Don’t rent a car seat: If you are renting a car this summer, use your own car seat. When you rent a car seat you don’t know important facts about its history that could affect its ability to protect your child (e.g., expiration date, crash history, etc.). The good news is that most airlines allow you to check your car seat for free.
For more information on how to help keep child passengers safe, go to buckleupforllfe.org to access helpful articles, car seat installation videos and more.
Children’s Health Injury Prevention Service offers free car seat checks by appointment. If you have car seat questions or wish to speak with a car seat technician to schedule your appointment, please call the car seat hotline at 214-456-2059.
Check your airbags
Go to the App store or Google Play to download the Airbag Recall app. Use it to scan your license plate (or manually enter a vehicle identification number) to see if your vehicle has an open recall. You also can check airbagrecall.com. For Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles go to toyota.com/recall.