It didn’t make it to the Kidz In Motion Conference, but it’s now in production!  I evaluated a pre-production model of the Britax Boulevard CS recently and found it to be a very clever feature addition.  Basically, the mechanism senses when the tension you put on the harness adjustment strap is meeting resistance from the child.  As you give a solid pull, it gives a distinct tactile and audible [double] click when the harness is adjusted to an acceptable point.  It’s really that simple.

I am going to wait to make a final opinion until I have a production model, hopefully by the end of the month, but my overall impression was positive.  I will say that it is not foolproof.  For example, it can be fooled by thick winter coats, just as a parent can be fooled.  The manual clearly mentions thick clothing is a concern, as it is in every child restraint.  It’s also possible to have the harness tight enough, even though you haven’t yet heard the click (or maybe you released your pull just a bit too soon).  Parents, advocates and technicians who are familiar with adjusting a 5-point harness correctly may find this to be mostly a gimmick, though still a pretty cool one.   On the other hand, for many parents and caregivers who often leave the harness too loose, I found it to be a very quick and simple way to get a good adjustment of the harness the vast majority of the time.  If you pass your seat to a relative, babysitter or daycare, it’s also a simple way to make sure they get it right when you aren’t there!

Click & Safe really is just an aid to help parents get a good fit.  An analogy might be a recline level indicator on an infant seat.  Most of the time, they work great.  If you happen to be on a slight incline in a driveway, they can be fooled, though.  Still, a very handy tool that works very well most of the time.

I will note that a similar Click & Safe feature has been available on some Britax (RÖMER) European models since earlier this year.  The USA Boulevard CS looks identical to an existing Boulevard, except for some labeling and the additional content in the manual, of course.  The only difference is when you give a strong, even pull on the harness strap, you hear a re-assuring Click and then a second Click as you release the strap.  Then, your child should be quite safe as far as the harness fit is concerned.

Until I’ve had a chance to evaluate a production model, I would recommend that parents go to see one at their local Babies R Us store before buying it.  It’s a feature that will appeal to many parents.  As with many features, other parents may find it unnecessary, some may not like how it works or feels and some may not want to spend the extra money because they already know how to get a good harness fit.  The standard Boulevard is also a great product, even without Click & Safe.  I will have a full review on the Boulevard CS soon!

Here’s the press release from Britax USA and The Reynolds Group:

BRITAX INTRODUCES Boulevard(R) CS TO HELP PARENTS PREVENT MISUSE
— New harness tension indicator has easy to hear “click” to let parents know harness straps are snug —

     CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 10, 2008 — Britax Child Safety Inc. has gone one step further in enhancing the safety of child car seats.  The Britax Boulevard(R) CS introduces the Click & Safe™ snug harness indicator, a solution to the leading misuse of child safety seats. The Boulevard CS with Click & Safe gives an audible affirmation to moms and dads that baby is snug by clicking when the harness straps are fastened. The tangle-free, five-point harness seat accommodates children rear facing from five to 35 pounds and forward-facing children from at least one-year-old and 20 pounds up to 65 pounds.

     The Boulevard CS responds to statistics from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found 59 percent of all harness straps to be dangerously loose. “Loose harness straps should be a critical safety concern for all parents,” said Laura Jana, M.D., pediatrician, child passenger safety technician and mother of three.  “The harness straps serve the very important, and ultimately life-saving purpose of keeping children properly positioned and secured in their child safety seat. If these straps are not properly fastened or are loose at the time of a crash, children run a greater risk of being ineffectively restrained or even ejected from their seats – putting them at much greater risk of injury.”

    It was with these concerns in mind that Britax developed the Boulevard CS.  ”The Click & Safe answers parents’ biggest car seat fear – that they’ve unsafely harnessed in their child,” said Pankaj Amesar, advanced technology program manager for Britax Child Safety Inc.  “This audible parental aide helps make traveling with a child less stressful while furthering Britax’s mission to advance child safety.”

   The Boulevard CS also features Britax’s revolutionary True Side Impact Protection™ with deep side walls and head support to provide advanced protection in side impact collisions.  One in four of all motor vehicle crashes that involve children occur from the side, and these crashes result in a significantly higher injury rate than front or rear crashes.

     Britax’s True Side Impact Protection offers design features that transfer energy away from the child during a side impact collision: an energy-absorbing foam liner over a stiff structure to distribute crash forces, side walls that shield the child from intruding objects, deep head wings and sides for head and body containment, and an adjustable head support to minimize side-to-side head movement during a crash.

The Boulevard CS is as simple to use as it is safe.  Its easy-turn knob adjusts the headrest and harness height without having to remove the seat from the vehicle.  Premium push-button LATCH connectors allow for quick, reliable installation.  And with improved forward-facing weight capacity, the Boulevard CS can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

     Unique features include Britax’s patented Versa-Tether(R) for energy management, rear- and forward-facing recline for child comfort, and a body pillow for positioning.

The Boulevard CS is available exclusively at Babies R Us stores nationwide in July 2008 and at specialty retailers in October 2008.  Suggested retail is valued at $329.99.

About Britax Child Safety Inc.

Britax Child Safety Inc. is a leading child seat manufacturer. For more than three decades, it has been a pioneer in developing car seats that enhance safety.  Britax’s full line of car seats offers side impact protection, and its True Side Impact Protection™ family of products features the highest level of side impact protection available on the market.

Britax is the best-selling child seat in Europe and has become one of the most-trusted brands in North America by parents and caregivers since entering the market in 1996. Britax assembles its car seats in its Charlotte, N.C. factory, with about 90 percent of the components coming from vendors within a 250 mile radius of Charlotte.  For more information, visit http://www.britaxusa.com.

# # #
Britax Child Safety, Inc.
13501 South Ridge Drive
Charlotte, NC 28273
USA

A Britax Childcare Group Ltd. company
Tel: 704-409-1700
Fax: 704-409-1710

News from the Kidz in Motion Conference coming a bit later today!
Darren