Is seems that lately most child restraint manufacturers have finally come around to the idea that new CRs should be relatively easy to install and easy to use properly.  I don’t know what finally prompted them to see the light but I appreciate it.  However, sometimes it seems like we take a step forward and then 2 steps back.  The new Dorel “Safety 1st Designer/Eddie Bauer Deluxe” infant seat with front harness adjuster is a perfect example. 

You’d think that the new front harness adjuster is a step in the right direction but a closer inspection reveals the truth – there’s no splitter plate!  Instead they’ve sewn the 2 harness straps together in the back.  This means you get all the convenience of a front adjuster but it’s a whole process to move the harness straps to different slots.  Just to be fair – I will point out that my beloved 5pt FP Stay-In-View infant seat had a similar design.  I hated it on the SIV too but I only had to move the straps once (there were only 2 sets of slots) and that seat didn’t have a chest clip so that was one less thing that you had to deal with.  Plus, the SIV was made in 2000/2001 when, quite frankly, we didn’t expect too much from infant seats in general.    

Anyhow, Judi was kind enough to provide everyone with a step-by-step pictorial of the process here.   Every CPS technician (not to mention anyone who owns this seat or is considering buying one) should check it out.  Needless to say – it’s ridiculous.  Dorel probably saved themselves roughly $1 per unit by omitting the splitter plate.  But at what cost to consumers and to the babies who ride in these seats?  It’s not just a matter of inconvenience.  We know that inconvenience is directly tied to misuse and misuse puts children at risk.  I understand that business is business and saving a dollar here and there can really add up when you’re talking about thousands of units but c’mon – enough already.  This is lame and totally unacceptable in this day and age. 

It’s upsetting to me personally because the front adjust Designer infant seat initially seemed like a great option for CPS programs with tight budgets.  But now that I know there’s no splitter plate, I won’t recommend it.  If they add a splitter plate in the future, I’ll reconsider.  If they add a splitter plate AND replace that awful, cheap plastic buckle with a “real” buckle with metal tongues (which is a whole ‘nother rant) then I’ll gladly recommend this CR to every agency in the nation with a CPS program – even if it cost $5 more.  

It’s disappointing because this particular CR does have the potential to be a very good, economical infant seat if they make a few key changes.  It does have a front adjuster, 4 sets of harness slots, energy-absorbing EPP foam and an adjustable base.  You can even leave the handle up which is nice.  Unfortunately, they ruined it when they skimped on the splitter plate.    

Sometimes companies are so focused on saving money and reducing expenses that they lose sight of the bigger, more important picture.  In this case, the bigger picture is making CRs that are safe, easy to use and hard to screw-up.  It’s almost 2009 and no one can claim ignorance anymore.  I understand that the market needs budget seats but if manufacturers make them harder to use just to save a buck or two on the manufacturing side – it’s not worth it.  Those who know better are obligated to do better.  That goes for all of us in this field and as far as I’m concerned - there are no exceptions.