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A License Plate Divided

plate2Dear State of Illinois,

I’ve always contended that Arizona was the most thematic state in the union. Everything about the state screams “Arizona!” If a person were to be abducted by UFOs and dropped in the middle of Arizona, it would only take a couple minutes of wandering around before the person spotted a turquoise lizard or purple kokopelli painted on the side of a building and realized he was in the Grand Canyon State. (I realize this scenario is absurd. UFOs are more likely to abduct people FROM Arizona, not TO it. But I digress.)

Illinois, you might not be as thematic as Arizona, but you seem to be trying. You don’t have stovepipe hats carved into highway retaining walls (at least not that I’ve seen), but you’re fiercely proud of Abraham Lincoln, who spent most of his adult life in the state. As The Land of Lincoln, Illinois even includes Abe’s likeness on its standard-issue license plates.

I’m a huge presidential history nerd and a big fan of Lincoln (who isn’t?) so when we moved here, I was thrilled at the thought of having him on my license plate. But then I started to notice something that bothered me and my sense of order: Lincoln’s head is centered, and it shouldn’t be.

IMG_0724Back when Illinois’ plates used to consist of three digits, a space, and three digits, it made perfect sense for Abe’s head to be centered on the plate, so one could see him. I’m sure it felt right.

But now the standard, non-personalized plates consist of three digits, a space, and then four digits. That means the plate is off-balance and the first digit in that second set inevitably covers part of Abe’s head, and it drives me nuts.

So, State of Illinois, I am humbly asking you to scoot Mr. Lincoln’s head to the left a bit. You could even have two different prints: an off-center one for use on the standard-issue plates, and the centered one for people who order personalized plates where an off-center Abe might look weird. And don’t tell me this would be too complicated. The state currently offers more than 50 specialty plates, so adding one more design shouldn’t be a big deal.

I realize it’s a silly thing to ask, but if Illinois is truly the Land of Lincoln, shouldn’t we avoid stamping over his head as much as possible? It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

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Evenflo Triumph Convertible Review – Tried and True

TEvenflo Triumph ProComfort - greenhe Evenflo Triumph convertible has been around in various incarnation for many years. It’s been refreshed several times and continues to be a solid performer. The Triumph is easy to install, very easy to use correctly, comfortable and a good value. In a market dominated by very expensive, and very inexpensive convertible seats – the Triumph is reasonably priced somewhere in the middle. It’s not the cheapest convertible on the shelf but it’s certainly not the most expensive either.

The model I have for review is the Triumph “ProComfort” LX in “Hutchinson” green fashion which is a Target Exclusive. Hot pink “Melrose” is also an option. MSRP is $159.99

Other retailers like Walmart and Babies R Us have their own exclusive versions of this seat. Walmart has the “SureSafe” Triumph LX which has nice, push-on lower LATCH anchor connectors. Babies R Us has the “Platinum” Triumph with OUTLAST temperature-regulating fabrics. A non-exclusive Triumph LX version is also available at Amazon and other online retailers.

The Evenflo ProComfort model at Target offers buckle pockets and “Gel Matrix Technology” in the cover to reduce pressure points and improve child comfort. This review will focus on that particular model but most of the info listed applies to all Triumph LX models with a weight limit of 65 lbs. All the newest versions of this seat have dual integrated cup holders which makes it easy to differentiate the newest models from previous Triumph models.

Triumph Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing from 5-40 lbs.; 19- 37” tall and top of head is at least 1″ below top of carseat
  • Forward-facing from 22-65 lbs.; 28-50” tall and at least 1 year old (AAP recommends rear-facing until at least age 2)
  •  “Infinite Slide” harness system
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Durable, energy-absorbing EPP foam
  • Dual integrated cup holders
  • Buckle Pockets (on certain models)
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft
  • Made in USA!

Triumph Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height: 7″
  • Highest harness height: 16″
  • Crotch strap/buckle position: 7″ and 9″
  • Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 13″
  • Overall internal height: 23″
  • External width at widest point: 20″
  • Width of base: 14.5″
  • Weight: 18 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)

Evenflo Triumph - naked  Evenflo Triumph - naked

Installation Comments:

2015 Toyota Sienna 3rd Row Preview

2015SiennaHere is a quick look at the refreshed 2015 Toyota Sienna.  The big news for some families is that Toyota has added a fourth LATCH position.   You can now install a child safety seat with LATCH in either second row captain’s chair, the third row “center” position and now the third row passenger-side seat as well.  Another new available feature that some parents may appreciate is the Driver Easy Speak system.  It’s essentially a microphone that can be enabled so the driver’s voice is amplified for those in the second and third row seats.  Now the kids will hear you when you say, “If you don’t cut that out right now I’m going to turn this Swagger Wagon around!”

 

Toyota now makes a backup camera standard on all Sienna models, which is essential for safety.  Bluetooth hands-free is also standard.  They also added a front passenger seat-cushion mounted airbag to reduce leg injury risk.  The driver’s seat retains a knee cushion airbag.  In addition, the side curtain airbag coverage has been increased around 30%.  There is also a handy new multi- information display right in front of the driver, between the main gauges, to help you keep your eyes off the road as briefly as possible.  This standard 3.5 inch screen can be configured to show the information you want without having to turn to the main dash screen and searching for it.

Updated crash tests results are not yet available from the IIHS or NHTSA, but Toyota expects it to do as well as the 2014 model.  Perhaps the one drawback of this refresh?  A full complement of advanced safety features (including pre-collision frontal crash prevention) is only available on the Limited Advanced Technology Package in the new Limited Premium trim.  This package also includes Dynamic radar cruise control, vehicle dynamics integrated management and hill start assist control. Features like Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are standard or available in packages on various trim levels.

Stay tuned for our full review coming later this fall!

Thank you to Toyota USA for the preview of the Sienna, Camry and Yaris.

Why New Parents Get it Wrong

Most expectant parents spend countless hours making sure everything for the new baby is just right. They paint the nursery, pick coordinating crib sets, pour over catalogs and roam stores looking for the perfect coming-home outfit, type up their birth plan, and misuse swaddledebate names for weeks.

Yet as soon as these parents put their baby in the car for the first time, almost all of them make at least one critical mistake. Car seat advocates and experts have known this for a long time, but a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics is highlighting it again: Almost all car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly.

After checking the usage of more than 250 families being discharged from a hospital in Oregon, researchers found that 93% of them made a serious error with their car seats. Nearly 70% left the harness too loose, and 43% didn’t install the seat tight enough. Thirty-six percent had a seat adjusted to an incorrect angle, and 34% positioned the chest clip too low. Other misuse included having the harness straps in the wrong position and using unapproved after-market products.

Why do doting new parents misuse seats like this? That’s a question safety advocates have asked for a long time. Usually it’s not because they don’t care; it’s because they don’t know.

Many parents fail to read the manual that comes with their car seat. I know manuals can be tedious and boring, but when it comes to a piece of safety equipment, it’s necessary. Just do it!

Another reason is that car seats are confusing. If they were easy, we wouldn’t need to have certified technicians to help people with their seats. Again, much of the confusion can be cleared up by reading the manual, but even that can’t solve everything. Car seats often need to be demonstrated, not just talked about on paper.

Finally, a lot of people just don’t understand crash dynamics. Most people have never been in a serious or even moderate crash. They don’t understand how strong crash forces can be, and what kind of effect they can have on a human being—especially a tiny one. It’s certainly not something I had thought about until I became involved in child passenger safety, and even now it’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around. Many parents just don’t understand the lifesaving role a car seat can provide, and how that safety can be compromised by not using them correctly.

How can new parents be better prepared? Here are some tips to help reduce the most common mistakes.

  • Read the manual! Really.pileomanuals
  • For rear-facing seats, the harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders—not above.
  • Tighten the harness so you can’t pinch any webbing between your fingers at the collarbone. On most seats, you’ll want to pull up excess slack from the hip area before tightening.
  • The chest clip should be level with the baby’s armpits. That puts the clip over the strongest part of the baby’s torso—not on the neck, and not on the tummy.
  • Install the seat with the seatbelt OR lower anchors, not both (unless your seat and vehicle both explicitly allow it, which is rare).
  • If you use lower anchors (LATCH) make sure the position in the car allows for it. Most vehicles don’t have dedicated LATCH anchors in the center seating position, and most don’t allow for borrowing outboard anchors for use in the middle (check your manuals).
  • Check to make sure your seat is installed tightly enough. Use your non-dominant hand to give a firm tug where the seatbelt or LATCH strap goes through. As long as the seat moves less than an inch, the installation is tight. It’s important to check for movement ONLY at the belt path. Checking at the top of the seat will make the installation seem looser than it is, and will probably wind up loosening up an otherwise good installation.
  • Check the side of your seat to make sure the angle is correct for a newborn. Some seats have a line that needs to be level to the ground, while others have indicators that include balls, bubbles, or colored disks that show how reclined the seat is. For newborns, the seat should be at or close to the maximum allowed recline.
  • If you’re using a rear-facing-only or infant seat, make sure the handle is in an allowed position in the car. Some seats require the handle to be up, some require it to be down, and some allow any position, so read the manual to find out what’s allowed on your seats.
  • Don’t use aftermarket accessories unless they’re specifically approved by the car seat manufacturer. Also, don’t attach hard or heavy toys to the handle of the seat while it’s in the car.
  • Don’t swaddle your baby or use heavy jackets or snowsuits in the car. Check our tips for winter weather to learn more.
  • Make an appointment with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician before your child is born. A good technician will teach you to install and use your seat properly. A list of CPSTs can be found here, and car-seat.org also maintains a list of techs among its members.
  • Read the manual!

Aton 2 Declan

If you’re expecting, you’re probably doing everything you can to make sure your baby enters the world as safely as possible. Don’t skimp on safety once he or she is out of the womb.