40 years ago, a parent’s arm was a safety restraint for a child in the car. Now we know better, but poorly installed children’s car seats are still a problem. In 2017, over 90% of car seats were installed or used incorrectly, or in an unsafe way.
One man is changing this. And fortuitously for us, he’s right here in Boulder. They call him the “Car Seat Guy,” and with immense passion, technical expertise, and thoughtful instruction, Bill Flinchbaugh is a literal lifesaver for the families he serves. In nearly 20 years in child passenger safety and education, Bill has fitted an astounding 100,000 plus car seats.
When babies are born, parents worry about a host of dangers to them, from unsafe cribs and electrical outlets to drowning and childhood illnesses; as they get older, cleaning products, burns, and climbing hazards continue to vex parents. Yet a leading cause of death of children under 13 is car crashes.*
For Bill, children’s safety is paramount, and he is so enthusiastic about it, he dedicates about 60 volunteer hours a week to ensuring it. Although he does not have children of his own, car safety instruction is a culmination of his many interests encompassing engineering, technology, design, and teaching, and his previous jobs as a computer educator, auto mechanic, and as a Kiwanis Club community volunteer.
Bill is not only a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), he has also earned certification as an instructor (CPSTI), training others to be car seat technicians. Now Bill is the chief guru of car seat checks assisting local hospitals, law enforcement and fire stations, and even pediatricians – from Boulder to Denver.
Why can’t a parent simply read the instructions to install a car seat properly? Because car seat installation may seem easy, but not only can manuals be unclear or skimpy on details, choosing the correct seat in the first place for your car and your lifestyle — and knowing the Colorado State Laws — are also essential. More complicated is that laws represent a guideline for minimum safety standards rather than what is optimally safe.
Enter Bill. A fitting with Bill can take 30 minutes to an hour and includes installing the seat as well as instructions for the future. Children should be refitted as they grow, and this applies to booster seats as well. He shows parents and caregivers the best safety procedures for their individual child or children because each car and child are unique. And he’ll come back to refit the seats as kids get older.
Once a child outgrows a car seat and no longer needs it, Bill will even recycle it. In 2016 Bill recycled over 2,000 car seats. While City of Boulder/Ecocycle does not accept car seats for recycling, the car seats he recycled from other towns in Colorado represent over 9 tons of plastic and related additional materials that were kept out of landfills.
In fact, Bill is such a well-known and well-liked veteran of car seat installation that he is now being asked to teach driving to the babies he fitted into seats long ago.
Along with other safety community colleagues, Bill even established a foundation, the Colorado Children’s Automobile Safety Foundation, dedicated to safety education for the safe transportation of children, primarily in cars, but also for school buses, planes, motorhomes, other recreational vehicles as well as the transportation of special needs children. The mission of the organization is, as he describes it, is “education and advocacy, community assistance and action.”
WHAT ARE BILL’S TOP 3 TIPS?
1) Don’t buy a car seat based on stroller, purchase price, or online reviews.
2) Purchase your car seat based on your type of car (some seats don’t fit all types of cars), your child’s size, and your lifestyle. Don’t over think it, keep it simple.
3) Meet with a knowledgeable professional (Bill or a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) 6 weeks prior to your baby’s birth to determine the type of seat you’ll need and have it fitted properly to your car so that you are ready.
To learn more about Bill, “The Car Seat Guy,” and his foundation, visit: carseatprogram.com
To speak with him or make an appointment, call 303-931-3443