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Safest 2016 Vehicles Update


Buy a Safer Car This Summer: The Best SUVs, Minivans and Sedans

Many online automotive websites list the “safest” cars.  Most have pretty low criteria.  Some require an IIHS Top Safety Pick, others an NHTSA 5-Star overall rating.  Yes, these are all safe cars, but so many cars today achieve one top rating that it doesn’t really help family vehicle shoppers all that much.

Recommended-150pxAs always, CarseatBlog goes a step beyond at helping you narrow down the field to the best models in each class of family vehicles.  Every single one of our qualifiers not only is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, with an array of the latest advanced safety features, but is also an NHTSA 5-star overall rated vehicle.  We go even farther, making sure that there are no sub-par NHTSA individual crash test scores and eliminate the lightest vehicles that tend to fare worse in multi-vehicle crashes.  Our extremely strict criteria narrow down the field so much that each qualifier is truly among the safest vehicles on the road today.

Our Winners and Runners-Up are perfect or nearly perfect in every objective factor of crash safety. We also indicate which models provide critical advanced safety features at affordable prices and make sure none are worse than average for carseat installations.  Our Honorable Mentions just barely miss the cut in one aspect or another, but are otherwise extremely safe choices for your family and we would not hesitate to recommend any mentioned vehicle for overall family safety.

For the summer car buying season, we’ve updated our list with more qualifiers that hadn’t previously been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA.  We’ve also added a few Honorable Mentions that were tested too late to be award winners, namely the 2016 Volvo XC90, Infiniti QX60 and Lincoln MKX.  Our lists will be updated as new models are tested into 2017:

XC90 rearThe 2016 Volvo XC90 is one standout addition that earned top marks in each IIHS and NHTSA crash test.  It also avoided crashes in both IIHS Front Crash Prevention tests with an autobrake system that is STANDARD equipment so you won’t struggle to find key advanced safety features on a dealers lot.  It also has a relatively wide 2nd row middle seat, making 3-across carseats possible.  One notable drawback is the lack of top tether anchors for the third row seat, an unusual omission.

Looking for specific recommendations for your family?  Maybe you have a large number of carseats and need to know the ideal arrangement or if they will even fit in a vehicle you want to buy?  We are happy to answer new vehicle selection questions on our Community Discussion Vehicle Safety Forum and our Facebook Vehicle and Carseat Safety Group!

StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Survival Kit Review


Car Escape Tools: A Perfect Father’s Day Gift (That’s Really For You)

Ever get that special gift for your birthday or Mother’s Day?  You know, the one that you knew really wasn’t for you?  Maybe it was that chainsaw you always dreamed about?  Or something useful, but perhaps not all that thrilling, like a homeowner’s tool kit?  Maybe it was something like an iPad that you actually liked, but it was quickly claimed by that special someone who gave it to you?  Of course, I personally have always given thoughtful gifts, but I always keep an eye out for the perfect gift.  The one that will not only be appreciated, but also doesn’t seem like you actually had yourself or your kids in mind, even if you did!

We know that all of our savvy readers are concerned with auto safety.  Being trapped in a vehicle can be very scary, even if it is not on fire or sinking in the water!  If there isn’t a fire or water hazard, you may have time to dial 911, and then have some options to try different windows or a hatch for escape.  But if there is a hazard, you might not have the time to do anything but unbuckle yourself and escape, and any precious seconds wasted are fewer seconds you have if you also need to unbuckle your children!

amazonhammerThere are dozens of tools at Amazon and other stores to help you escape.  Most are of a “Hammer” design, requiring a good swing or flick of the wrist to crack the glass.  These may work well enough if you have the room, but getting a good swing if your car is filling with water may not be so easy.  These types of crashes are not very common, but may claim the lives of hundreds of occupants a year.  Plus, your husband doesn’t really want a bright yellow or pink plastic hammer!  That’s a clear sign that you might not have had him in mind when buying the gift;-)

There’s an easy solution, a spring-loaded punch.  Even one from a hardware store should do the job.  But good quality ones can be somewhat expensive, while cheap ones can jam or break easily.  Hardware store tools do make good gifts for Father’s Day, but why stop there when you can have something better shipped to your door?  We’ve found the ultimate Father’s Day or birthday gift for Dad, something that will also give YOU peace of mind in case of a vehicle entrapment crash!

Recommended-150pxEnter the StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool.  Even the name has Father’s Day written all over it. It’s the black steel equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for escaping an automobile.  You get not only a covered, spring-loaded center punch for breaking glass easily, but you also get a hardened stainless steel hook blade for cutting seatbelts and harness straps, a serrated high carbon 440C stainless steel knife blade and an LED light with replaceable batteries.  And best of all, you get something that LOOKS like a gift for Dad, even if you also had yourself and your kids in mind when you bought it!  

It’s frequently on sale for under $35 at Amazon, which is about the same as a high quality hardware store spring-loaded center punch that doesn’t give you any extra features.  It’s a great gift for any driver. Designed by a NYC Paramedic, it should be handy for first responders as well. This is definitely not a tool that should be easy for kids to reach, as with any sharp edged knife or tool. The closing mechanism on the knife is similar to some other knives and requires caution for adults as well.


Want to step it up a notch?  Go for the StatGear Auto Survival Kit for $59.99. In stock, and free delivery by Father’s Day if you order soon!  It includes the T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool.  Plus, you get other auto emergency and first aid essentials, including a re-usable glow stick, nitrile gloves, gauze, an assortment of bandages, instant ice packs, alcohol prep pads, tape, antibiotic ointment, tweezers and emergency drinking water.  It’s all packaged in a nice, padded black case with velcro to strap around a large sun visor or fits into a center console, door pocket or glove compartment.

And it works, too!  Smashes tempered auto glass more easily than a hammer style escape tool and cuts through harness material like butter.  I tested it out and took a look at the Survival Kit in this video:

Now maybe some would prefer that pink one for themselves or for their teen driver?  No worries, StatGear has you covered as well.  The SuperVisor XT is a compact model that attaches easily to any sun visor.  It’s not a spring-loaded design like the T3, but it does include a seatbelt/harness cutting tool.  And if pink isn’t your thing, it comes in black, green and orange, too.

Hopefully, you won’t need any tool to break a window if your car goes into the water. Wikihow has some additional tips for escaping from a sinking car. For those cases where you do need a tool because of water pressure, door damage or other factors, do keep in mind that hammer and center punch tools won’t always shatter the whole window enough for you fit. They should be able to break it enough to where you can use some other object like the knife blade of the T3 tool, a wrapped fist or a kick with your shoes to clear the rest of the window if necessary.
Thank you to StatGear Tools for providing the kit used in this review.  No other compensation was provided.  All opinions are my own.

Bumper Bullies


People have been doing it since automobiles first appeared on roads.  We’ve all probably been guilty of tailgating the car in front of us from time to time.  I’ve certainly followed slow drivers too closely, though never unsafely close like many drivers I’ve seen (my wife may disagree…)  On at least one road near my house, it seems far more than isolated cases of being very late to an appointment.  It’s more like an epidemic of road-ragers and just plain inconsiderate and unsafe drivers.

The main route through our subdivision is a 4-lane city road.  Our stretch of this road is at least a few miles long of only residential areas, and so no large trucks are allowed.  The speed limit is 35 mph for miles in either direction and signs are posted frequently.  The problem is that this road goes from one end of town to the other, from the interstate highway to all the residences in the south end of town.  That apparently is the only excuse needed for drivers to be in a big hurry, all day, every day.

Where my street ends at this road is our school district’s new pre-K school that also serves children with disabilities.  That serves as no deterrent to speeders, lane weavers and bumper bullies.  I drive this road frequently, and if it is anywhere close to rush hour, there is someone so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their headlights in my mirrors.   And it doesn’t seem to matter how fast I’m driving, someone is always on my bumper trying to bully me to drive faster.


My response is to then drive EXACTLY 35 mph until my turn, but the bullies never take a hint about their unsafe driving.  For most, they simply look for an opportunity to be even less safe.  They swerve into the other lane to cut off another car, then speed past me until they get on the bumper of yet another vehicle and have to slow down again a few seconds later.  Or, they have to jam on the brakes at the next traffic signal behind another group of cars they will unsafely tailgate to repeat the cycle.

From expressway until the road ends, it’s about 7 miles long.  Considering all the stoplights and traffic, it’s unlikely the bullies can average 10 miles per hour faster than safe drivers, even if they do manage to go 50mph or faster for short stretches.  A savings of perhaps a few minutes in a best case scenario, but realistically only a minute or two.  Is it really worth it?  Not only being an idiot and contributing to their own stress and blood pressure levels, but endangering other drivers, their own passengers and pedestrians, too?


Lenovo Yoga 900S Review: Blogger’s Dream?


LenovoYoga900sReviewIt’s been a while since I reviewed my last notebook, and now my Sony VAIO is slowly dying.  It takes forever to startup sometimes.  Basic internet surfing pauses frequently.  Black spots have started to appear on my display.  It’s time for a replacement, but like last time, it’s so hard to find the perfect one.

I really wanted to love the 2016 Apple Macbook.  It was a top contender.  But it’s relatively expensive.  And there’s no touchscreen.  And minimal connectivity.

I also liked the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.  The base model was in my price range and the display is beautiful, the best one I’ve seen in this class.  I just wasn’t completely sold on the kickstand and typecover arrangement.

The new HP Chromebook 13 is a relative bargain.  The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Tablet also looks very interesting.  Neither of these was available when I was buying.  So what’s the ideal portable for this blogger, to be used mostly for home office applications, internet publishing and surfing the web?

I had a few requirements:

  • Fanless.  For quiet rooms or when wife is asleep.
  • Laptop.  Actually comfortable on a lap when needed.
  • Backlit keyboard and/or touchscreen to work in low light.
  • Lightweight and portable.

Just these requirements weed out a huge number of systems.   Finding one with enough power to avoid slowdowns was tougher, as this eliminated most older and lower priced models like the Surface 3.  My VAIO lacks this power, lacks a backlit keyboard, lacks a touchscreen and has a quiet but audible fan.  It’s a 13.1″ notebook that weighs about 3 pounds, and that is about the limit I would accept for its replacement. Finding something that checks all the boxes isn’t easy.

yoga900s2Thanks to the miracle of other bloggers, I happened upon the Lenovo Yoga 900S-12ISK.  It not only met my requirements, but had a few bonuses, too: