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SCOSCHE MagicMount Review

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.48.28 AMI have a confession to make: I use my cell phone in the car.

Before you jump on me, though, I use it in place of a navigation system. I don’t play Candy Crush while I’m driving.

The problem I’ve had, though, is finding a good way to mount my phone so I can glance over at the map. Until recently, I’ve had to keep my phone in a console down low under the dash board, meaning I’d either have to grope around and raise the phone up when I needed to see it, or I’d have to glance very far down, without even my peripheral vision on the road. Not safe.

I’ve tried a couple cellphone mounts before, the kind that stick to my windshield with a suction cup, and then have a clamp to put the phone in. I found the suction cups fell off a lot, and it was a pain to get the phone in and out of the clamp.

Then I found the SCOSCHE MagicMount system. There are various mounts available, but they all contain a powerful magnet that clings to a metal plate you stick onto your phone or set inside of your case. This means that the phone can be put on or taken off the mount in a split second.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.17.46 AMI chose the dashboard mount, which sticks onto the car with powerful 3M adhesive. The nice thing about this mount is that it can be placed on a horizontal or vertical surface, or even a curved surface. The face of the mount can swivel in any direction, meaning you can place it pretty much wherever you need it. There are also mounts that use the suction cup, a gooseneck that sits in a power outlet, and one that clips to a vent.

FullSizeRender-2Each mount comes with two adhesive metal plates about the thickness of a business card. The small plate can adhere directly to the back of a phone or phone case. Or, if you’re like me and aren’t thrilled with the idea of sticking something to your phone, you can simply place the larger plate (without removing the cover from the adhesive side) between your phone and its case. I worried it might not be strong enough, but it’s worked perfectly on my CandyShell case and my husband’s Otterbox.

IMG_0789  FullSizeRender

Since I needed two of the large plates (one for my phone and one for my husband’s), I ordered a replacement kit, which comes with a small and large plate for the phone, a mini-size metal plate for any other small object you might want to display, plus extra 3M adhesive for the mount. All together, the original mount and replacement kit were less than $30. Once we figured out where we wanted to stick the mount, we were installed and ready to go in minutes.

We’ve been using the MagicMount for several weeks now, and I still get a little nerdy thrill each time I pop my phone onto the mount. It’s just so easy! It’s also nice that if you’d prefer a landscape view, you can just turn your phone before sticking it on—no adjustments necessary.

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Here’s a video showing how easy the mount is to use:

There is one important warning: Because the mount uses a strong magnet, you shouldn’t use it if your phone case also holds credit cards. It’s fine for smart phones, though, and since the metal plate you put on the phone isn’t magnetic itself, you don’t need to worry about it co-mingling with credit cards in your purse or pocket.

Now, readers of this blog probably have two main concerns with this product, and I’ll address them.

1) What about projectiles???

Yes, in a crash, the mount and/or phone could theoretically come off. That could happen with any mount, though. I’m not sure if it’s more or less likely with this one, but so far this one hasn’t fallen off at all, which is more than I can say for my previous clamp-style suction-cup mount, or the suction cup that holds our Garmin unit in our other vehicle.

And I have another confession: My car is not otherwise free of projectiles. I try not to keep excess stuff in there, but at any given time, we have water bottles and travel mugs in the cup holders, and my kids usually have books, toys, or tablets to keep them entertained. My phone would be somewhere in the car anyway.

2) Isn’t it a distraction?

Sure, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Like I said, I’m not texting or watching movies on it. I have a map displayed, which is no different than a display on a car’s built-in screen or a stand-alone navigation unit (except that it’s better positioned, in my opinion). Can I guarantee that other people won’t misuse it? No, just like I can’t guarantee they won’t misuse any other mount, or skip the mount all together and text away while driving. Anything has the chance to be misused–it depends on the person using it.

I can’t say how well this device will hold up over time, but so far I’m loving it.

CarseatBlog was not compensated in any way for this review, not even with samples. I spent my own money, and I’d do it again…and probably will when it comes time for holiday shopping. I’ll give the gift of magnets. The SCOSCHE MagicMount system used in this review can be found for under $20 at Amazon.

America’s Best and Worst Drivers

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The Best RibbonIt seems like everyone complains about how terrible drivers in their area are. But what cities are really the worst—and the best—when it comes to driving?

 

For the past decade, Allstate has compiled data from the 200 most populous cities to answer that question. For 2014, the 10 Safest Driving Cities were:

1. Fort Collins, CO

2. Brownsville, TX

3. Boise, ID

4. Kansas City, KS

5. Huntsville, AL

6. Montgomery, AL

7. Visalia, CA

8. Laredo, TX

9. Madison, WI

10. Olathe, KS

crash

The 10 Worst:

191. New Haven, CT

192. Philadelphia, PA

193. Alexandria, VA

194. Glendale, CA

195. Baltimore, MD

196. Providence, RI

197. Springfield, MA

198. Washington, DC

199. Boston, MA

200. Worcester, MA

What do these numbers mean? Well, on average, someone in Fort Collins, CO, goes 14.2 years between collisions. Someone in Worcester, MA, goes 4.3 years between crashes.

Of course, factors like population, city density, and weather play a role, and Allstate has adjusted for each of those variables as well. Even taking all that into consideration, six of the top 1o cities are still in the top 10, and eight of the bottom 10 are still in the bottom. (Fort Collins is still best; Worcester is still worst.)

We live halfway between Chicago (#139, 8.2 years between collisions) and Rockford, IL (#25, 11.2 years between collisions). In the two years we’ve lived here, we’ve been rear-ended once and our neighbor backed into our car. (We’ve also had five nails in our tires, so I think maybe we’re just jinxed.)

You can see the full report and find your city (or nearest larger city) here. What’s the data for your area, and how does it stack up for you?

Don’t Make Me Turn This Car Around

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no-cell-phone-clipart-nTBGkMGgcBy now we all know that talking on the phone while driving poses a great distraction. But did you know there’s something even more distracting, and you probably do it all the time?

An Australian study found that driving with children in the car is twelve times more distracting than using a cell phone while driving.

When you think about it, that’s not surprising. Besides the normal conversation that children engage us in, there’s also crying, yelling, nagging, whining, bickering, singing annoying songs, and endless games of I-spy. And those are just the audible components.

Add to it the toy-dropping, punching of siblings, and frantic waving of hands for no particular reason. Then add in the help opening the snack package, the handing-back of the snack package, and then your desperate contortions as you try to retrieve the empty packet before your child dumps the crumbs all over his or her car seat.

Those kids are kind of distracting, aren’t they?

2013TraverseBritaxParkwaySGLGracoAffixThe study found that during a 16-minute trip, parents’ eyes were off the road for almost 3.5 minutes, mainly from glancing in the rear-view mirror at their kids. Some even positioned the mirror to focus on their children rather than on the cars behind them.

I felt very smug reading the study and some articles about it. I hardly ever look back at my kids. Maybe I’m lucky in that they’re generally pretty well behaved in the car, or maybe I’m just really good at ignoring them, but that aspect just isn’t an issue for me.

They’re also at ages now where I can pretty much rely on them to hold onto their trash, and they know that if they drop a toy, they’re out of luck. Reaching for a dropped item is something I will not ever, ever do while I’m driving.

But then there’s the part about conversation…and I’m guilty of that one. Just as with the other party in a cell phone conversation, kids aren’t usually aware of what’s going on outside the car. They have constant comments and questions that need answering, and not always at the best times. I remember recently when I was trying to explain the history of child labor laws to an inquisitive 5-year-old while also navigating a tricky highway interchange. When things get too intense or distracting, I do sometimes tell my kids to wait a minute, then get back to them once I’m done backing out or merging or whatever I was doing.

One conclusion made by the researchers (that likely won’t come as a surprise to readers of this blog) is that properly restraining children probably leads to less distraction by the parents. This particular study showed that the children involved were incorrectly positioned 70% of the time, which could certainly lead to a need for increased attention by the parents. Chalk up another benefit to child restraints: Besides protecting kids in a crash, they can help prevent them in the first place.

Should You Toss Your Toxic Car Seat?

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coccoroEvery few years, HealthyStuff.org evaluates car seats based on the presence of flame retardants and certain heavy metals. They just came out with a new report, and you might be concerned about the findings. Let’s talk about what this all means.

First, let me say that I’m concerned about flame retardants, too. Some people brush it off as hippie-helicopter-parents-flipping-out-over-something-harmless. But some of the chemicals found in car seats have known detrimental effects, some have suspected detrimental effects, and at least one is slated to be phased out of use under the Stockholm Convention (a global treaty signed by over 150 countries who have vowed to reduce persistent organic pollutants).

I’ve written other posts about flame retardants for CarseatBlog, and I’m concerned about my own children’s exposure, so I’m not here to tell you the study doesn’t matter or should be ignored. But I’m not going to tell you to panic and throw away your seats, either.

This current study from HealthyStuff appears to be more thorough in some ways than past ones. This study looked for the presence of brominated, chlorinated, and phosphate-based flame retardants. They show which retardants were present in which seats, and they show the potential hazards of each of those compounds.

They do a much better job than in the past of explaining how these chemicals can enter a child’s body: through dermal (skin) contact, inhalation, or ingestion. The organization also provides a better explanation of their methodology and how they weighted the results to come up with their rankings.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the rankings.

  • All car seats must meet federal flammability standards. The flammability standard is harsh, and there’s no way to meet the standard without the use of some kind of chemical flame retardant.
  • We don’t know the risks of all chemicals. We know that some are worse than others, but because fire retardants are largely unregulated, it often takes years before they’re fully tested and their impacts fully understood. A chemical that seems great now might turn out to be hazardous later. That means that we don’t necessarily know how “good” a seat with a “good” ranking really is. We also don’t know if a seat with a “bad” rating is really any worse. Especially because:
  • There’s no way to know how “safe” or how “dangerous” a car seat is. Even the FAQs on HealthyStuff.org’s report states:

    HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical. HealthyStuff.org ratings provide only a relative measure of high, medium, and low levels of concern for several hazardous chemicals or chemical elements in an individual product in comparison to criteria established by our research team and informed by published research studies.

    We don’t know how—or even if—these car seats’ chemicals are having an actual impact on kids.

  • Not all seats were tested. HealthyStuff.org only tested 15 seats. There are a lot of seats that weren’t tested at all. Of the ones that were, we only have data for those particular samples. It’s possible that a company could switch vendors for certain components, meaning that foam that tested poorly (or well) might not even be used in other, seemingly identical seats manufactured at a different time. Basically: there’s just a lot we don’t know.
  • Car seats save lives. It’s okay to be concerned about chemicals in your children’s car seats, but it doesn’t mean the car seat itself is a bad thing. Just the opposite: It’s absolutely necessary and crucial. The chemicals in flame retardants pose a potential risk. Car crashes are a known, real, happening-everyday risk, and are a leading cause of death in children. Properly using an appropriate car seat is one of the best defenses against injury and death. Hands down.

With all that said, what can you do if you’re still concerned about potentially dangerous chemicals in your seats?

  • Don’t leave children in seats longer than necessary. For many reasons, car seats should be for the car, not for lounging or sleeping outside the car for long periods of time. Children left in car seats outside the car are at greater risk for other hazards, too, such as airway obstruction, falls, and strangulation.
  • Clean the cover. The cover isn’t the only part of the seat that contains fire retardants, but it’s the part in most direct contact with your child. Wash it (according to manufacturer instructions) to remove any excess chemicals. Remember that aftermarket covers and products are not recommended because they can interfere with the straps and with the ability to properly tighten the harness.
  • Avoid excess heat. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially during hot summer months, but heat can cause a greater dissipation of flame retardant chemicals. Park your car in the shade, crack windows, use sun shades, and air out the car before you get in it.
  • Vacuum regularly. Flame retardants can gather in dust, so vacuum out your car and your child’s car seat regularly.
  • Contact car seat manufacturers to express your concerns. Public pressure leads to results. Some companies have already abandoned the more-concerning chlorinated and brominated fire retardants in favor of the (seemingly and hopefully) less-concerning halogen-free phosphates. If some companies have done it, all of them can.

If, after all this, you’re still panicking over your particular seat, then by all means get a new one. I don’t think it’s necessary, though.

Remember, I don’t take this topic lightly at all, but guess what seat my youngest child is currently riding in? I won’t name names, but it’s among the seats listed as a “highest concern.” I’m not switching him out of it, though. For one, I have no way of knowing whether his particular seat has the same components as the one tested (nor do I know how any new seat I’d get him would compare to the samples they used). I do clean the seat regularly, and we try to keep windows cracked in the summer as long as there’s no threat of rain. I do my best to mitigate his exposure by avoiding flame retardants in other areas, especially in our mattresses and bedding, where my child currently spends about half his life.

I will definitely contact the manufacturer to encourage them to remove brominated fire retardants from all their products, but in the meantime I’m not going to sacrifice the seat in question, which fits well in my car, fits my child well, and is easy to use correctly each and every time.