On behalf of traveling parents everywhere, we’d like to give a shout out to Debbie Dubrow at DeliciousBaby.com for making at least one car rental company pay attention to what they’re passing off as child safety seats. Vacationing in San Diego last December, Debbie and her family had a run-in with Advantage Rent-a-Car, after they discovered the baby car seats they’d reserved were filthy and damaged – and so were most of the other car seats available.
“The car seats they had for rent (were) so dilapidated and old – some 12+ yrs old and some missing critical parts- that renting them was illegal,” Debbie said in an e-mail today. “When I complained to the manager, he blew me off.”
Naturally, the story does not end there …
So Debbie posted photos on her blog, and sent links to local news stations. The story was picked up by ABC news affiliates in San Diego and Seattle, who ran their own under-cover investigations at the same rental agency, and found that three out of the four car seats reporters rented flunked CHP inspections. The fourth worked, but was filthy.
Now, Advantage Rent A Car has performed a company-wide inspection of all their car seats, yanked every seat that didn’t meet legal guidelines or safety and cleanliness standards and instituted a company-wide Child Safety Seat policy.
Debbie has a couple of other messages she wants to put out to parents:
“If you see a company putting people (kids or adults) at risk, take action to make it better,” she says. “I was shocked at how many parents and car seat installation experts responded to my story saying ‘I’ve seen that before.’ Yet it only took a few hours of my time (and some hard work from the great reporters at ABC) to resolve this issue. I’m hopeful that my story will inspire others to take action too.”
And while Debbie is delighted that Advantage agreed to clean up its act, not every company has. When you rent a car seat, be an advocate for your child. Inspect the seat:
- Each car seat should be inspected thoroughly for any evidence of cracking, twisting, worn harness webbing or broken buckles.
- Verify that the seatbelts are threaded through the proper channels.
- Once you have latched the buckles, pull hard to make sure that they do not detach.
- Find the “birth date” label on the side or back of the seat, and don’t use a seat that is older than 5 years.
- Parents should also ask for the car seat manual to ensure that they install and use it properly.
For more tips on airline and car seat safety for tots, check out Debbie’s blog.