First of all, the homework assignment on day 2 was to take home a CR instruction manual and try to find information on:
Lifespan/Expiration of CR
Does CR manufacturer allow anything to be placed under the CR to protect the vehicle’s upholstery?
The next morning we went over our findings. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the response. Many of the students were unable to find all this information even though it’s likely that it was somewhere in the manual. The problem is that this info is frequently buried and even if you’re specifically looking for it – you might not be able to find it easily.
Let’s look at a few examples:
1. Dorel Alpha Omega/All in One (new 50 lb harness version) Eng. 4358-4582:
- Inside of front cover (underneath the Dorel contact info box): “On the back of the shell there is an expiration date for use of this child restraint. Do not use this seat after the expiration date.”
- Pg 3 – Under !WARNING: “Do not use a child restraint that has been in a crash. You must get a new child restraint.”
- Pg 4 – General and Warm Weather Use: “To help protect your vehicle seat’s upholstery from damage, use a towel underneath and behind child restraint.”
2. Evenflo Titan (Instruction Manual 25703025 8/05)
- Pg 5 – Under Additional Warnings: “DO NOT use this restraint if it has been involved in a crash. It must be replaced.”
- Pg 7 – Care and Cleaning: “To help protect your vehicle upholstery, place a towel beneath and behind the child restraint.”
- Even though the CR has a “Do Not Use After ….” stamp on the back of the shell – there is no info in this particular manual regarding CR expiration. At least not that anyone could find (myself included).
3. Graco SafeSeat Infant (Instruction Manual ISPC065BA 7/05)
- Pg 9 – Under !WARNING: REPLACE THE INFANT RESTRAINT AND BASE AFTER AN ACCIDENT OF ANY KIND.
- Pg 9 – STOP USING THE INFANT RESTRAINT AND BASE AND THROW IT AWAY after the date molded into the back of the infant restraint.
- Pg 43 – Under Cleaning and Maintenance: CONTINUOUS USE OF INFANT RESTRAINT MAY CAUSE DAMAGE TO VEHICLE SEAT. Use an infant restraint mat, towel or thin blanket to protect upholstery.
As you can see, there’s no consistency in these manuals. Important info is all over the place, in different sections and under different headings. Frequently, it’s so buried that even seasoned manual readers have trouble finding what they’re looking for. I’ll admit that it took me 3 tries to finally locate the expiration language on the inside cover of the Alpha Omega/All in One manual. Even though these manuals have a Table of Contents listing in the beginning – it’s still way too hard to find what you’re looking for sometimes.
So, here’s my idea…. when you’re looking for something in a Vehicle owner’s manual where do you go? Personally, I don’t go to the Table of Contents – I go to the Index in the back. Wouldn’t it be super-helpful to have an index in the back of the CR manual? That way when you’re looking for the lifespan of the CR and it isn’t stamped into the plastic shell – you can look up the word “expiration” and it will point you to the right page. Ditto for “crash replacement”, “handle positions”, “LATCH storage”, etc.
I know many of us work at busy check events and fitting stations. We all need to find ways to manage our time effectively without cutting corners. The LATCH Manual and the Summary Sheets from SafetyBeltSafe, USA go a long way in this regard. However, CR Manufacturers can really help out too by making the information we’re looking for easier to find in the manuals.
This seems like an ideal opportunity to plug our Consulting Services, so I’d like to add that Darren, Heather and I all have editing experience and would be happy to assist the technical writers in this endeavor. The legal departments have had their say – now let’s get this abundance of information organized in a way where it’s easy to find.