Children’s car seat safety is so so important, but with the rise of TikTok car seat “experts” who are uh…well, like many self-proclaimed experts, not necessarily offering the most accurate advice, it can be tough to navigate the car seat safety tips flooding our social feeds. Like new parents aren’t overwhelmed enough already?
In an effort to help you find car seat safety tips you can rely on, we reached out to one of the most trusted people we’ve known for over a decade now: Jamie Grayson, a Certified Passenger Safety Technician/CPST and recognized baby gear expert with nearly 20 years experience in the industry, countless media appearances, and hundreds of baby gear speaking events under his belt.
Who can you trust with children’s car seat safety advice?
5 quick questions for Jamie Grayson
Fun fact: Jamie was a stage actor working a day job in NYC’s busiest Buy Buy Baby, and his in-store demos for parents were so entertaining and helpful, he developed a cult following among New York parents before taking his shown to the web and building out his own business.
Fun fact #2: Jamie and our editor Liz appeared on a big baby shower episode of the Martha Stewart Show together–Jamie presenting car seat tips, and Liz curating and emceeing a baby fashion show for all the new moms on Martha’s staff! So yeah, we go way back. And he definitely knows his stuff.
CMP: There are a lot of self-taught “experts” giving advice about car seat safety and baby gear (and everything else on the internet!) and it can be hard to know who’s legit. Is there any kind of certification that parents can look for when it comes to child car seat safety experts?
JAMIE: Howdy, howdy! Yes, the rise of social media, where everyone has a platform, has created a LOT of self-declared “experts” and “resources.” While a lot of these accounts can be helpful and many people have good intentions, there is so much misinformation out there, and one category we have to be very cautious about is children’s car seat safety info. If you are following and taking advice from anyone in this area, please make sure they are a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician). If they are, it will most likely be in their bio.
CMP: What do car seat experts need to accomplish to become certified?
JAMIE: Well, you can’t just print up your own credentials! I am dual-certified in the USA and in Canada, and it is a very involved process.
Training starts with a 3-4 day course that includes an exhaustive amount of information regarding seat belts, car seats, vehicles, and more. There are multiple skill checks throughout the course, plus hands-on activities including an entire day checking actual car seats in all kinds of vehicles. Eventually there’s a final exam you must pass. But there’s more! As you start your journey as a new CPST, you have an instructor or other seasoned technicians watching over you and making sure everything is okay—and this includes how you speak to caregivers, which I think is an underrated skill. (New parents can be anxious, for good reason!)
Over the course of the certification process, you must complete a certain number of continuing education hours that include webinars, conferences we must attend, and many opportunities to install multiple child car seats with a supervisor watching over you.
This long, extensive program is designed to make sure you’re really committed to baby safety, and getting all the tiniest details right.
CMP: You have been doing this for a loooong time! We know parents generally do the best we can, but we all make mistakes about all kinds of things. With that in mind, what are the most common car seat safety mistakes that you see?
JAMIE: Having been in the baby gear space for 18 years now (insert Titanic clip of Old Rose saying, “It’s been 84 years…”) and first certified ten years ago, there are definitely a few common mistakes that I see over and over.
As far as installation, I see people using lower anchors and the seatbelt system at the same time–this is a case where more isn’t better, and this can cause the car seat to malfunction in the case of a crash.
There’s a lot of improper harnessing when the baby is in the seat itself–often the harness is not tight enough, or the chest clip placement is incorrect.
I also see parents keeping infant inserts in the seat too long, turning an infant to a forward-facing position too soon, and not maxing out the stages of the seat. These mistakes are common, but the good thing is it’s easy to fix them if you read the manual carefully and listen to trained expert advice.
Child car seat harnessing checklists via Jamie Grayson + Safe Beginnings
CMP: Speaking of finding trained expert advice…we often see the recommendation that you can go to any fire station or police station to get a free child car seat inspection. Is that still the case?
JAMIE: Parents have been told for years to go their local police or fire station for help with car seat installation. While some of them are in fact certified, most are not, and I have seen a lot of bad info given to people from non-certified people in the field. Always call the stations first and ask if they specifically have CPSTs on staff, and if so, whether there are certain times or hours that it’s best to go There may even be free seat-check events in your community, so definitely use Google to your advantage.
CMP: Besides Googling, how can parents find a reliable, certified car seat technician in their area? Is there a list or a website somewhere that you trust?
JAMIE: To find a CPST in your area there are a few options. In the USA visit cert.safekids.org from the National Child Passenger Association, and click on “find a tech” or bit.ly/FINDATECH. From there, you can search for a qualified, certified technician by zip code and even filter by special needs if you need assistance with those seats.
If you’re in Canada, use CPSAC.org for access to the Child Personal Safety Association of Canada. They do a terrific job with their program and if you’re in Canada, they can really help you out.
Thanks to CPST and baby gear expert Jamie Grayson for answering our questions to help keep more kids safe! You can follow him on @TheJamieGrayson on Instagram and TikTok, or find him on Facebook. Oh…and he’s also very funny.