NHTSA Launches Recall Awareness Campaign

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NHTSA-babyleg-160x600Safe cars play a big role in passenger safety. You can be a great driver who always wears a seatbelt, but if your brakes fail all bets are off. Yet each year, a quarter of recalled vehicles go unfixed. Last year there were 900 recalls affecting 51 million vehicles. If 25% of them went unrepaired, that means there are almost 13 million vehicles on the road with potential safety issues—and that’s just from last year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to change that. They recently launched a new campaign called “Safe Cars Save Lives,” aimed at getting people to check their Vehicle Identification Numbers twice a year for recalls, and to get their vehicles repaired as soon as possible. Dealerships will perform recall fixes for free.

NHTSATo make this easy to remember, NHTSA recommends checking for recalls when you change your clocks for daylight savings in March and November (which is also when you should change the batteries in smoke detectors).

You can check for recalls at this page using a VIN or by looking up makes and models.

NHTSA also held a workshop with industry leaders and researchers to examine why so many recalls go unfixed. Based on discussion from that workshop, NHTSA is asking for input about how recalls can better be communicated to consumers, and how consumers can be encouraged to get their cars fixed. Possible solutions include using electronic communication (texts or emails) rather than or in addition to the traditional mailed notices. You can read about the initiative here and can submit your comments.

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Safe and Secure? Your Furniture Should Be

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Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.08.36 AMThe week leading up to the Super Bowl is one of the country’s busiest times for buying TVs. But before you kick back with your new big screen, take a few minutes to make sure that TV is safe for your family. And while you’re at it, make your other furniture safe, too.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is ramping up its “Anchor It” campaign, focused on making sure furniture and TVs are anchored to a wall to prevent tip-overs on small children. According to the CPSC, a child is injured by falling TVs or furniture every 24 minutes, and a child dies from it every two weeks.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably wear your seatbelt and properly strap your child into an appropriate car seat every time you get in the car. But is anything securing your TV right now? Are your dressers anchored to your walls?

This isn’t the kind of accident anyone is immune from. Even CarseatBlog’s own Alicia, a safety advocate and nurse, had a brush with a dresser tipping over onto her child. Alicia’s son was lucky. A woman in my local SafeKids organization was not. She’s one of the moms featured in this powerful video from CPSC:

Tip-over injuries are so preventable with just a few minutes and the right materials. You can find information on how to secure your furniture and TVs at the CPSC’s page here. Many TVs and pieces of furniture come with anchor kits. If not, or if you have older items to secure, you can find anti-tip kits at home improvement stores or at Amazon.

To paraphrase one of the women in that video, a hole in your wall is far preferable to a hole in your heart.

Carseat Recalls – the good, the bad and the ridiculous

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Recall-stampYour carseat is recalled. Those words strike fear into the hearts and minds of safety-conscious parents everywhere. After all, no one wants to hear that there is a potential problem with their carseat – a product that they’ve entrusted to protect their child’s life under the worst possible circumstances. For child restraint manufacturers, recalls are more than just fixing compliance or safety issues – they tend to be costly and chock full of bad publicity. In short, recalls are bad for business. However, voluntary recalls are also a part of the business and almost every manufacturer has to face a recall issue sooner or later. It’s important to understand that not all recalls are for serious safety-related problems although some clearly are.

A carseat could be recalled for having a small hole in the shell (for attaching the cup holder) if enough kids get a finger stuck in that hole. A seat could also be recalled for having an incorrect phone number for NHTSA listed on the label. Or for having a mix-up with the English/Spanish sticker labels. Labeling errors are actually pretty common but rarely are they a safety concern.

Most consumers have no idea how many nit-picky little criteria are in FMVSS 213 that must be complied with. One perfect example, if the carseat is one that is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft then the label is required to state that. But it’s also required to state that in red lettering. If someone, somewhere, screws up and that wording winds up printed on the label in black or gray, or any color other than red, then… you guessed it – the seat will be recalled for failing to comply with federal standards.

Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label

Meanwhile, every store around the country that carried that particular carseat will probably have that “WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE” recall notice poster with a picture of the culprit hanging in the aisle or posted on a bulletin board – alerting consumers to the failure of that product to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. I bet the money spent on that recall campaign could buy a whole lot of red ink. And probably a few years worth of gas and groceries too.

It’s ridiculous that all recalls get lumped together and there is no differentiating between a misdemeanor and a felony. How many parents get totally freaked out because of some minor issue that has nothing to do with the safety of their child restraint? On the flip side, there are plenty of legitimately scary recalls that can affect the product’s ability to protect children in crashes. Almost every manufacturer has to deal with something that falls into this category sooner or later. No product or production process, no matter how good,  is guaranteed to be flawless 100% of the time.

What REALLY matters in these situations is how the manufacturer responds once it becomes apparent that there is a problem (or at least the potential for a problem). Do they quickly identify a solution and issue a voluntary recall right away – before any children are seriously injured? Or do they drag their feet, arguing back and forth with NHTSA for years until they are forced to issue a recall?

I have to say that there have been a lot of properly handled recalls recently that reaffirm my faith in some carseat manufacturers. Timely and appropriate responses combined with good customer service really go a long way to calm fears. Obviously, the more severe the problem or defect, the more it will take to regain the trust of consumers but good customer service is always the best place to start whenever there’s a problem. Well, that and an acceptable solution to whatever the problem is. I’ve seen some really lame “solutions” to recall issues over the years but that’s a topic for a whole different blog.

So, what can consumers do to protect their children from faulty products? Spending a lot of money on a CR doesn’t make it less likely to be recalled. Really, your best protection is to be an educated consumer. Whenever possible, buy products from manufacturers who have a good reputation for recalling seats quickly when problems arise and for handling problems with excellent customer service. It is also critical that you register your child restraint with the manufacturer so that you will be notified in the case of a recall.  If you move – don’t forget to call them and update your contact info!

If you’d like to check your carseat or booster for recalls – there are several resources available. Keep in mind that recalls may occur years after the product has been purchased. Here are links to the 2 most popular recall lists:

NHTSA Recall List:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

University of North Carolina HSRC Recall List: http://www.buckleupnc.org/car-seat-recall-list/

You can also sign up for email alerts whenever a new recall is announced:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm

Whatcha Got in There? A Review of the Bebe Au Lait Premium Muslin Car Seat Cover

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If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for muslin blankets. We have several that migrate around the house and Declan has a designated one he sleeps with every night. They’re just so perfect-lightweight, breathable, snuggly, and they get softer and fluffier with every wash. So obviously I was pretty stoked when I was asked to review the new breathable muslin car seat cover by Bebe Au Lait.

a perfect fit on a Graco Classic Connect!

a perfect fit on a Graco Classic Connect!

When you hear car seat cover you most often think of the actual fabric padding on a car seat. This is not a seat pad. It is a cover that drapes over the top of your car seat and attaches to the handle and protects your baby from unwanted hands and the elements. It does not interfere in any way with the proper use of the car seat.

It’s very easy to use. You simply pop the elastic around the outside of the car seat (like a shower cap) and attach the straps on the top to the car seat handle to create a cozy little baby tent. It has a zippered opening in the front for easy access to your baby and it also has this nifty little pocket on the back for any lightweight items you want to store there.

It has a snap closure too!

It has a snap closure too!

Have a puker? Rubbed it along your car that hasn’t been washed in who knows how long? No problem-o, this cover is machine washable. Just toss it in and put it back on your car seat good as new. I’ve seen/used several different kinds of car seat covers but this is my favoite hands down. Mostly I’m in love with the adorable little owl/mushroom pattern but I also love how breathable the material is. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that air circulation is pretty important for babies so the fact that muslin is such an airy fabric is big points in my book. Also it’s silent! No scratchy slippery material to rub up on something and wake the baby. It’s enough to block direct sunlight but not so much that your kid is banished to the baby cave.

Bottom line? It’s a perfectly simple product to use that incorporates comfort and innovation to give your little one a squishy, breathable barrier to the outside world.

The Bebe Au Lait Premium Muslin car seat cover retails for about $35 and comes in 8 different prints/patterns to suit just about any taste.  For more information head to Bebe Au Lait’s official webpage.

Thank you Bebe Au Lait for providing this cover for a review! No monetary compensation was provided for this review and the opinions written are entirely my own.