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Mothers in Detroit create an app to help safely install car seats

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Posted at 10:20 PM, Jun 02, 2021

SALINE, Mich. — Two mothers working for Toyota are making getting around metro Detroit safer for children, making sure parents know how to properly use a car seat.

“I knew I needed a car seat but I didn’t know how to choose one,” said Jennifer Pelky.

Pelky, from Brighton, says the first time she tried to pick out a car seat, it was a confusing process. She is an engineer working for Toyota.

“The original genesis started way back when I was pregnant with my first child, and I went to that big box baby store to pick out a car seat and looked at the giant wall of car seats and suddenly realized I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Pelky.

She was not alone. Lindsay Babian also worked for Toyota as an engineer, but in a different department than Jennifer.

One day, Jennifer borrowed Lindsay’s car for a study and found that Lindsay has her car seat installed incorrectly.

“I, similar to her, am an engineer, and I also didn’t have the tool kit to put it in correctly,” said Babian.

From there, the two got to work, working at home through the pandemic to create Toyota for Families, an online and phone app tool.

“Before quarantine, we spend a lot of time in each other's kitchens and living rooms with our kids falling asleep on each other's couches,” said Pelky.

“Every parent, and especially mothers know it’s been challenging working from home with children and virtual learning, so to do this at the same time really took a lot of effort and it’s been a fun activity,” said Banian.

When you use the tool, you’ll be asked to pick the position of the seat, the type of car seat, and how it’s being attached.

“You get a custom menu, written instructions, verbal instructions, and video instructions showing a custom video of how to install the seat,” said Babian.

The pilot vehicle for the app is for the 2021 Sienna, however, there is other useful information.

“We have links to other programs like buckle up for a life that show great addition kind of just tools for transporting your children safely, we have a link to check for recalls on your vehicle, so kind of a lot of general information as well that is available to anyone,” said Babian.

“When we look at misuse rates of car seats, a really common mistake is parents don’t have the car seat tight enough to the vehicle seat, and so one of the things we walkthrough in the video is how to check the car seat for tightness to make sure it moves less than one-inch side to side and front to back,” said Pelky.

The goal is to help as many parents as possible, who might be confused like they once were.

“Addressing those coming mistakes, taking them through the whole step process from start to finish to make sure that they are doing everything correctly,” said Pelky.

Toyotas for Families can be downloaded through the Toyota app on both Apple and Android devices. They are now both working on expanding the app to different Toyota makes and models.

Ali Hoxie at WXYZ first reported this story.