Hey there!  This is Anne (ketchupqueen) again, concluding the news and updates that we were given at the 2010 Kidz In Motion Conference in Ft. Worth, TX.  (You can see Part 1 here.)  Thanks again to Christa (celtic1885) for her help with pictures, fact-checking, and everything else!

Evenflo shared some upcoming updates with us during the manufacturers’ panel.  Evenflo also has 30+ CPSTs on staff, did you know that?  They are in marketing, engineering, quality control, sales, and Parent Link departments.  They did confirm a few things we already knew, but I thought bore repeating in case anyone hasn’t heard- tether extenders are available for all their seats.  LATCH in booster mode is allowed in all of their seats so equipped (3 in 1, combination seats) as long as it does not interfere with proper fit or positioning (for instance, you may not use offset LATCH in booster mode as it would interfere with proper positioning of the belt.)

Evenflo also shared some changes they have made recently or are making.  They are adding color-coding to stickers for greater ease of installation, and as of seats shipping this December, all labels on each seat will have model name and expiration clearly marked, according to Dave Sanders, CPST and engineer who was speaking to us.  All booster weight minimums have now been increased to 40 lbs., and they will not be selling boosters with a weight limit lower than 40 lbs. in the future.  They have updated the fairly-new Maestro so it can be 5 degrees more reclined.  The Embrace handle is being redesigned; the Z-shape will no longer be on the Embrace, it will be shaped like the handle on the Serenade that sits closer to the shell of the seat.  While the “handle down, 1.5 inches clearance” rule does still apply at this time, they are “working on” allowing different handle positions (though I’m not quite holding my breath on that one.)  The weight limit on the Embrace may or may not be increased in the future.

While Dave was not available when we stopped by the booth, I did have a chat with the sales rep, Patsy, who was very nice and helpful, about the incompatibilities I and a few other techs have experienced with the SureLATCH connectors on some of the Evenflo seats.  While she couldn’t make any promises, she did say she would talk to Dave and to the Parent Link workers.  If you or someone you know experiences LATCH incompatibility with the SureLATCH connectors, please call Evenflo’s Parent Link line to report the incompatibility and find out whether there is a fix available.

An interesting product we were quite impressed with was the VizKID safety device by Visible KIDS.  The founder, David Bell, told us how he was hit hard by a local case of a child being left in the car and killed by overheating in Petaluma, CA in July of 2007.   Even though he doesn’t have small children, he felt a responsibility to prevent this from happening to more parents.  He began brainstorming, making prototypes, and doing product testing.  The end result was the VizKID.

VizKID safety device

The VizKID is designed, at 24″ tall with a softball-sized head in bright colors, to be visible in the driver’s peripheral vision when sitting on the passenger seat, as well as being visible to anyone outside the car walking by to signal “there’s a child in this car!”  Each time the child is put in the back seat, the VizKID is stood up on the seat and buckled in (David assured us that he does instruct the VizKID be buckled in!)  When you get the baby out, you then put the VizKID down in the child seat, on its side, or on the floor, providing a tactile and visual reminder that the child is in or out of the car.  In his pilot studies, more than 50% of parents had successfully made a habit of this within just a few weeks. 

The VizKID has passed flammability and other materials safety tests.  It is very lightweight and has no sharp corners, so should it become a projectile it should not be fatal.  (We did suggest that future models might be made of EPP or similar deformable foam for even more safety; he was very interested in the suggestion and said he’d definitely look into it for future production.)  It was released July 1st, sells for $19.95 (MSRP is a bit higher, but he says that is the price he is aiming for!) and is available at local Bay Area retailers or on amazon.com.  You can also find Visible KIDS at http://visiblekids.com or http://vizkid.net as well as on Facebook.

Vera Fullaway from Combi shared some information with us on the upcoming Kobuk Air Thru high-backed booster, which will be rated from 33-125 lbs., features an “airflow fabric and design” for child comfort, and also features EPS foam on sides, back, and bottom of the seat.  It will have 20″ top belt guides and will be usable to the tips of the ears- they say that a 28.5″ seated height to the tips of the ears will fit the Kobuk Air Thru. 

Chicco told us a bit about their car seat recycling program, but we didn’t get too much information.  Hopefully more information will be available on that at some point, as it sounded interesting!

Sue Johnson from Columbia Medical shared with us details of their new special needs positioning seat, the Spirit APS 2400.  (Their previous seats have been re-launched as the Therapedic IPS 2000 and 2500- IPS standing for “Integrated Positioning System” meaning the positioning is built into the seat, and they have also added a more plush fabric to these seats for comfort.)  The new Spirit APS 2400 (APS is for Adjustable Positioning System as this seat features more adjustable options for different positioning needs) is rated from 25-130 lbs., and up to 66″.  It features low-profile sides for easier transfers from a wheelchair, a wider seating area, and positioning similar to a wheelchair’s positioning options.  It has an option to be tethered with a shoulder belt lockoff (similar to the EZ-Tether on the Merritt Roosevelt, from the pictures we saw), though Columbia also requires purchase of the tether strap since they want to make sure that parents will be able to install the seat in situations where the shoulder belt tethering will not work.  (The tether strap is sold separately.)  The Spirit APS 2400 has a 10 year lifespan, and features swing-away supports for more ease of transfers and positioning, and offers additional optional support and positioning accessories.

Columbia Spirit APS 2400

 While we didn’t get to play much at the Britax booth or take pictures (can you say mobbed?) we did get a glimpse at their recently released new product line.  Sarah Tilton also shared some information about it with us at the manufacturers’ panel.  We were very interested in the computer model images and crash test images we viewed of the Safe Cell technology, which compresses in a crash to lower the child’s center of gravity and lessen forward movement.  The untethered seats actually perform in forward-facing crash tests at less than the tethered head excursion limit.  (Of course they perform even better when tethered!)  Britax has also added steel bar reinforcement up the side of the seat to lessen sideways movement, changed from EPS to EPP foam, and increased the amount of energy-absorbing foam in their new seats.  Instead of only having foam in the headrest, as on the old Boulevard, these seats feature a layer of foam in the headrest and a layer of foam in the seat shell as well.  We did like the look of the no-rethread harness which is adjustable without reinstalling with the push of a button, as well.

Stephanie Tombrello of Safety Belt Safe was there to speak to us too.  She told us that the new color pictorial is now available to view online (you can also purchase a subscription to print the pictorial, or order a copy printed by them.)  The new CD of instruction summaries is almost done, and they have updated their brochures (which support their helpline) as well.  She reminded us to take advantage of the Toyota low-cost tether anchor retrofit program while we can, and that “No Excuse” posters are available for shipping costs thanks to vehicle manufacturer sponsorships.  More information on the Safety Belt Safe website, www.carseat.org .

Graco had several of their prettiest infant seat patterns on display at their booth.  I was in love with the green T-Tario and the blue SnugRide 35 on display.

Green Teutonia T-Tario 35

Blue SnugRide 35

 Graco’s reps were very excited about their newest product, the SnugRide 30 infant seat, just released at Babies R Us (they have an exclusive for 6 months, and prices will range from $119-139 depending on cover options.)  They really have redesigned this seat in many ways.  It features an upgraded base, with a pull-handle, 3-position adjust.  Like all of Graco’s new products, it is side-impact tested.  It is rated from 4-30 lbs., and has 3 harness loops including a preemie loop to adjust to fit a wider range of babies.  The “shield” on the back that sometimes made harness adjustments difficult has also been removed; the instruction manual now has a spot to sit in the base instead.

back of SnugRide 30

The seat does feature support cushions that can be extra-supportive for a small baby, but was also really designed to fit a 4 lb. preemie without them.   An extra crotch buckle slot has been added that is 5 cm from the back of the seat, rather than 5 inches like the traditional Graco crotch buckle slot (which is also still present for larger babies.)  The crotch buckle is also adjustable in length and shortens to fit these smaller babies.

SnugRide 30 with doll using preemie crotch slot

This seat is shipping with a smaller, push-button buckle instead of the side-push type that has been in use on Graco’s seats for the past few years.  We are told once stock is used up, all seats will have the smaller push-button instead (we did mention that some parents really like the side-push style on the Nautilus.  They said they haven’t heard this positive feedback.  If you’d like Graco to keep the side-push buckle on the Nautilus while using the push-button type buckle on their infant seats, please contact Graco’s customer service by phone or through their website and tell them how much you like the side-push style button on the Nautilus.  We were told that if they get overwhelming feedback from consumers that this is a desired feature they are more likely to keep it; if not, they are likely to switch styles.)

The shell is truly redesigned from the SnugRide 22 shell.  It still has the same allowed handle positions (5 positions, A, D, and E being allowed in the vehicle, B and C disallowed in the vehicle) but we measured a SnugRide 22 and the SnugRide 30, and found the SnugRide 30′s shell to be 1 inch taller, with a 20 inch shell height.

Top of SnugRide 30 shell

 The bottom slot, specifically designed for 4 lb. preemies, we measured right at around 5 1/2 inches from the bottom.  (Note: the SnugRide 30 ships with the crotch buckle and harness on the second seat of loops, in the second set of slots.  It will need to be adjusted down to fit preemies and smaller babies.)

SnugRide 30 with doll

Bottom, preemie slot of SnugRide 30

 And of course, the SnugRide 30 works with all Graco strollers and stroller frames (and stroller adaptors.)

So that’s the news from KIM!  Such a neat chance to hear directly from the manufacturers not only what they are doing to improve their products, but how much they value the work we CPSTs do to keep kids safe.   It was an incredible experience for me, and I hope to be able to attend again some time in the future!