I must say that Darren puts a lot of pressure on me to write something grand and spectacular!  As I sat savoring my grilled cheese and vanilla shake comfort food at Johnny Rockets this evening after the conference sessions ended, I tried to think about what to write, but I was too busy watching the, ahem, colorful figures of downtown Denver go past, lol.  As for the conference, the only conference I have to compare it to is Lifesavers, to which I’ve been several times.  I decided not to go to Lifesavers this year in part because of its overwhelmingness (is that a word?), thinking that KIM would satisfy my need to connect on a smaller, more roundtable level–that I would actually sit and talk and discuss crash tests and head excursions and the nitty gritty and maybe even network a little.  Well, there was the opportunity to network, but you’d think after 30<smears hand across mouth> years I’d know that I’m truly an introvert at heart and I’m an observer really.  Bah!  The conference itself was similar to Lifesavers in that there were sessions in rooms with chairs; not really a roundtable, small college-class setting like I thought it might be.

So what am I supposed to comment on?  Oh yeah!  News from the car seat manufacturers!  That’s what you’re really here for, isn’t it?

Britax

The Britax representative covered the updates that have been introduced since last year.  You may be aware of some of these things, but they bear repeating for those who haven’t heard of them or who may have forgotten:

  • energy absorbing (rip stitch) tether that reduces crash forces on the child’s body
  • lower EPS pad (EPS foam under child’s thighs): labeled in 3 languages to not throw away
  • energy absorbing base
  • rear-facing lock-offs have been rotated 180*: helps keep them closed over the seat belt
  • visual clarification in manuals of when a child is too small/too large for each seat
  • new buckle design has 2 positive clicks when buckled
  • the Companion’s buckle position use was clarified: use inner position for infants up to 11 lbs., use outer position for infants 11-22 lbs.
  • and beginning in August, the LATCH connector straps on convertible seats will be 2″ longer to make it easier for rear-facing installations

One point the rep mentioned about the Frontier that I wasn’t aware of is that the tether must be used when the harness is used from 65-80 lbs.  Guess I’d better give the manual the once-over.  This will be one of those tough decisions for parents whose vehicles have tether anchors that have weight limits of 40/48 lbs.  Do I continue to tether my car seat even though my vehicle manufacturer says my tether anchor may fail?  Safe Ride News does offer some help on the subject with two articles, Tethers Are Better and The Use of Tethers for Children Weighing Over 40 Pounds.

Evenflo

The Evenflo representative clarified Evenflo’s position regarding airbag positioning.  Evenflo seats cannot go near frontal airbags.  So never any front seat installs.  Period.  As for side airbags, such as curtains, in pre-2002 vehicles, it’s a no-go, no side airbag installs.  For post-2002 vehicles, Evenflo seats can be installed next to side airbags if the vehicle manufacturer allows it.

If your Evenflo tether is too short to reach your tether anchor, you can call Evenflo for a free tether extender.  It clips onto the end of the regular tether and the other end clips onto the tether anchor.  Very simple and easy to install.  No tools required :).

EPS foam was added to the Chase and Sightseer combo and booster seats, as well as the Generations combination seat.  Very nice!

The Tribute adds a 4th set of harness slots at the end of the summer to make it a more versatile seat.

There’s also a new seat coming out soon that will address quick and easy installations.  That’s all that was given to us, folks :(.  Tease, tease, tease.  Perhaps the new Symphony?

And, if I’m remembering correctly, because I didn’t write this one down and anyone who knows me knows that if I don’t write it down, I won’t remember it, I believe the rep said all Evenflo seats are going to push-on style LATCH connectors.  That’s the fancy hoity-toity red-button pushing Britax-style LATCH connectors!

Graco

There wasn’t much new from Graco.  Perhaps something will be introduced at the ABC Kids Show?  The representative did remind us that the Nautilus could be installed with LATCH when used in booster mode and that the CarGo could as well.

Also, there are two, count ‘em, two lifespans on the Nautilus.  When used with the harness or as a highback booster, the lifespan of the seat is 6+ years (6+ ?  I guess it could go higher?  I don’t know.  Just think 6 years.).  When used as a backless booster, the lifespan of the booster is 9+ years.

Dorel

<drumroll> Beginning in August, the Alpha Omega and Alpha Omega Elite harness weight will increase to 50 lbs.  The top harness height limit of the AO increases to 17″ and the AOE increases to 17.5″.  Dorel has removed the restriction about using the top slot position for booster mode only, so that’s where the seats gain the extra height.  The labels will also be color-coded for rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster mode and will color match their sections in the manual.

The Avenue replaces the Uptown at a lower price point of $79.  It has 4 harness slot positions and 3 buckle positions.  The shell is the same as the Uptown, but the cover foam has been scaled way back.  They found consumers didn’t like the pricing on the Uptown.  I think this is a much better price for this seat, but I’m not sure I understand why they have to rename the seat just because they changed the cover.  It’s confusing!  Other manufacturers have different price points for their seats based on covers and accessories.  There’s no need to discontinue one name and start another (where’s that 2 cents icon when I need it?).

The Summit has a new head restraint design and has EPP foam.

The onBoard is the new infant seat that’s designed to fit small babies especially well.  It’s rated for 4-22 lbs. and has a customizable preemie insert.  The bottom harness slots are 5″, which are just 1″ taller than my CrackBlackBerry ;).  It has EPP foam and a built-in lock-offon the base.  They designed the seat to have a seat pan depth of 14″ because in their research, they found parents were turning their babies forward because the babies’ feet were touching the back seat.  Sigh.  So, in designing a deep seat, it allows the babies’ legs more time to grow before touching that dreaded back seat.  The SureFit is the same infant seat as the onBoard; however, it’s only available in travel systems.

And with that, I say “adieu.”  It’s been a long day and I’m off to see what’s on the lousy set of channels offered by the hotel TV cable.