When was the last time you got truly excited reading an owner’s manual? It should be par for the course when we get a new item, but dang, some of those manuals are so dry. Some are just plain hilarious depending on how the translation went (our stereo manual had a one word sentence of “However.” just nonsensically stuck in the middle of two other sentences). And some pull you in so you read them cover to cover like they are the best non-fiction book you’ve ever read. That’s how I felt when I got my new Acura MDX and started reading the manual. I still haven’t finished reading the manual. Heck, I still don’t know how to operate my iPhone when it’s plugged in because I haven’t gotten past the passenger safety section of the book. What I found was so exciting to me that if it hadn’t been nearly midnight when I first read it, I would have gotten past my phone phobia and called my fellow bloggers to share the news. o_O
The very first section in the manual addresses the vehicle’s safety features, specifically passenger safety. Other manuals I’ve read, including those from Toyota/Lexus (vehicles I’ve owned) and Ford, major vehicle manufacturers dive right into . . . the instrument panel. For adult passengers, there’s a diagram showing exactly how to line up the head restraint with the back of your head. Awesome! And any airbag geek will love the airbag sensor diagram. There is a paragraph on a page marked Additional Safety Precautions warning against placing hard or sharp objects in front of the airbags; I guess that means Matt’s idea for older kids in the front seat is a no-go in the new car 🙁 .
But the really excellent material comes in the child passenger safety section, called Protecting Children. I know Kecia addressed in a recent blog the lack of mention of lower LATCH and top tether weight limits in Honda/Acura vehicle manuals; and the low weight limits when the customer service line is called by parents and techs alike, so I won’t rehash that here. I will say, though, that in the tether section, my manual says this, “Since a tether can provide additional security to the lap/shoulder belt installation, we recommend using a tether whenever one is required or available.” Hmmm.
I wish I could quote most of the CPS section. Yep. It’d save me some typing for sure. I’ll have to pick some of my favorites, I guess. Here’s a good one under Protecting Infants: “Only a rear-facing child seat provides proper support for a baby’s head, neck, and back.” When I read that, I sat up a little straighter. A little owner education right there, not bad. Then I saw this under Protecting Small Children: “Many experts recommend use of a rear-facing seat up to age two, if the child’s height and weight are appropriate for a rear-facing seat.” Say what? A vehicle manual recommending a rf carseat for kids up to age two? At this point, I’m nearly falling off the couch. The next two paragraphs mention using a 5-point harness until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the carseat. Since it is nearly midnight, I must be dreaming, right?
The MDX manual goes on to describe how carseats should meet FMVSS 213, describes LATCH and how to install carseats using LATCH or the seatbelt. And then. Here’s when I knew the manual was written by someone truly knowledgeable. Then I got to the booster section and what was there? A list of 5 questions to ask yourself about the seatbelt fit on your child. You know them as the 5-step test from SafetyBeltSafe USA, but they weren’t listed as such in the Acura manual. How fabulous is that? A vehicle manufacturer actually incorporated the 5-step test into their vehicle manuals! Ford also has the test in their manuals and I’m sure others do as well, but with all the different makes and models of vehicles these days (have you been to an auto show lately?), it would take forever to read them all and I only became interested in reading the CPS sections in them *after* reading my Acura manual. It turns out that Honda has been working with SBS USA as a technical resource for a long time, so it’s not surprising that the 5-step test is in their manuals. Kudos to Honda/Acura (and Ford too) for getting the word out about proper seatbelt fit on the forgotten ages.
I realize that the last time I really read through a new vehicle manual was when my Sienna was new and that was back in ’05 so it’s been a while. I’m glad to see that vehicle manufacturers have made it a priority to put such important information into the manuals because the more places parents see it, the more they’re going to remember it and most importantly, believe it.