Author Archive

Driver’s Edge: The One Driver’s Ed Class Your Teen Should Take

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Drivers Edge signEvery time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I am indeed old enough to have a kid who is driving age. I still feel young and spritely—as long as I get my nap every afternoon after lunch—and it gives me the energy I need to ride shotgun as my son gets behind the wheel every day after school for the long drive home.

Our state did away with driver’s ed in high school long ago—theoretically to save money (note how well our drivers are doing: we’ve set a new record last year for pedestrian deaths, vehicle crashes and resulting deaths are at a crazy high, red light runners rule the intersections, and if you stop at a red light or stop sign before turning right, you are very likely to get hit or honked at). Instead of learning on simulators in classrooms and learning common sense rules and the laws of the road, new drivers literally get tossed behind the wheel of a multi-ton steel box and you’d better hope, folks, that the person teaching them is a decent driver.DrivingSimulator

In-sanity. There are driving schools, of course, and a student driver must either attend a school or take an online class provided through the DMV, plus log 50 hours behind the wheel. Many choose to take the online class because it’s easy. That’s one reason why we have so many red light runners, non-existent turn signal users, and drivers who can’t think past the hood of their vehicle. Enter Driver’s Edge.

Driver’s Edge is a non-profit 4-hour program that gives drivers ages 21 and younger hands-on experience in panic driving situations. I first heard about this program at a Lifesavers Conference many years ago when I saw their booth. I knew when my kids started driving, I’d have them go through the program. Here we are.

Before we even went outside, Jeff Payne, the founder and CEO of Driver’s Edge, talked to us about statistics and the importance of driver’s training. We’re in the safety business around here and we know kids don’t graduate to safe status once they are out of boosters. On the contrary, that’s usually when they are at their most vulnerable: they start making their own decisions about safety and due to brain and emotional immaturity, those decisions sometimes aren’t the best. Jeff outlined some examples:

  • Inexperience: teen drivers simply don’t have the driving experience adults have
  • Drinking and driving: still a leading cause of crashes and kids are still riding with drivers who have had alcohol
  • Texting and driving: less of a problem than it’s been in the past, but it’s still there
  • Seat belts: not buckling up

Driving simulators and political correctness don’t exist at Driver’s Edge. These guys realize that lives are on the line and they cut past the BS; I appreciated the bluntness. Classes are conducted in real vehicles by real race car drivers and there’s an indoor session with local highway patrol and police. Car crashes are the number 1 killer of people under age 21 and DE wants to combat that by teaching life-saving skills. When in the vehicles, young drivers practice evasive lane change maneuvers, ABS and non-ABS braking exercises, panic braking, and skid control. Some parents are still teaching their kids old school techniques of pumping the brakes to stop, so these classes combat that bad advice and while the kids wait for their turn, they also learn what to do if they’re pulled over by the police, basic car care, how to optimally adjust their seats and mirrors, and other things older drivers take for granted.

Driver’s Edge offers events around the country, but mostly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, the Bay Area, CA, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, DC, were on their 2014-2015 schedule. Registration was easy, but tends to fill up quickly since it’s a free event (donations are always accepted since it’s a nonprofit organization). Parents are invited and encouraged to attend to watch their child drive and listen to the experts give advice during the activities. Because Driver’s Edge is only a 4-hour program and doesn’t replace a good driving school, DE recommends these schools specifically if they’re available in your area. If not, do some research and find the best school for your new driver; it could save their life and the lives of those around them.

  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (Chandler, AZ)
  • Mid-Ohio School (Lexington, OH)
  • Simraceway Performance Driving Center (Sonoma, CA)
  • Skip Barber Racing School (various locations)

Pre- and post-tests are given to assess both parents’ and kids’ knowledge and driving comfort levels and they say we’ll receive follow-up questionnaires after one and two years to see if the skills learned have needed to be used. God I hope not.

I know my son is better equipped as a driver now that he knows he can control the car in a panic situation. It doesn’t rain much here in Las Vegas, so I can hardly wait for the next time that it does so we can go out to an empty parking lot to practice our panic stops (unlike that first time in the parking lot where I practiced looking cool as I tried not to yell as he nearly ran over the curb). My son was hesitant to attend the class—probably due to teenage inertia more than anything—but he was so glad that he did afterwards. And I know he was glad to learn from bonafide experts rather than these “experts”: (language warning 😉 )

2016 ComfortSport/Ready Ride/Classic Ride Recall

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
2016 Graco ComfortSport, Ready Ride, Classic Ride Recall

Graco is recalling some of their ComfortSport, Ready Ride, and Classic Ride convertible carseats due to missing information on a label. This DOES NOT affect the safety of the carseats, but the information is required by NHTSA.

ComfortSportReady Ride JeenaClassic Ride

Seats Affected: ComfortSport, Ready Ride, and Classic Ride convertibles manufactured between March 2014 and February 2015

2016 Graco ComfortSport, Classic Ride Recall

Defect: Missing verbiage on label

2016 Graco convertible recall

Remedy: Graco will send new labels to caregivers. Go to the 2016 Label Recall page to see if your carseat has been recalled. Some carseats within the recall timeframe have corrected labels. You can also call Graco at 1-800-345-4109 (Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST).

 

 

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Carseat Review – Cute, Compact & Budget-Friendly

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Scenera NEXT Lime Punch GreenWhat’s not to love about the Scenera NEXT? The cute little carseat with over a dozen covers from which to choose that’s lighter than some rear-facing only infant seats, has a mandatory rear-facing to age 2 limit, and is one of the most inexpensive carseats on the market as well at about $45. It’s almost too good to be true, but that’s what Cosco set out to make and they accomplished it and more.  It’s also our budget convertible carseat entry for our Recommended Carseats list.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND top of child’s head is even with, or below, top of seat shell
  • Forward-facing: 22-40 lbs. AND child must be at least 2 years old

Scenera NEXT Overview:

  • 5 harness slot positions
  • 3 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • One of the narrowest carseats on the market
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 8 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA

Scenera NEXT Measurements

Harness slot heights: 5.5”, 7.5”, 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”
External widest point: 17 ¼ ”
Shell height: 24”
Crotch strap depth: 2.5”, 4”, 5.5”
Seat depth: 11”
Seat weight: 7 lbs.

Installation

Installation is a dream. The NEXT is designed to install very easily because it’s a seat that will be commonly popped in and out of vehicles. Use either the lower LATCH connectors or the seat belt—it doesn’t matter since they’re both easy. Just don’t use them at the same time! You’ll notice on the bottom of the rails of the seat there are round rubber plugs. These little additions do miraculous grippy things to the installation and make it so the NEXT doesn’t slide when installed.

Scenera NEXT forward-facing Scenera NEXT grippy things

For a newborn or young baby, make sure the NEXT is reclined to the proper angle as designated on the line on the side of the carseat between the rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths. When your child is older, he can be more upright and the manual even says that.

Scenera NEXT rear-facing

Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs., which is the maximum weight limit of the harness

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Cosco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced at least 11” apart.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Cosco has determined that the Scenera NEXT cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Fit to Child

The Scenera NEXT is designed to fit children from 5-40 lbs. and the fit on the lower end is fantastic. When it was originally released, it shipped with a short crotch strap, which was perfect for newborns, but for older kids, it really was too short. If you have an older model, you can easily get a free, longer crotch strap from Cosco. Just give them a call or email them to request it. Since August, 2015, the Scenera NEXT automatically ships with the new longer crotch strap so you don’t have to do anything but enjoy your cute seat. My new longer crotch strap is in the mail to me right now and as soon as I get it, I’ll update the review with comparison pics.

One thing I’d like to clarify is the height limit. My Scenera NEXT came with an instruction manual that specified use until the child reaches 40 lbs. or until the top of the child’s head reaches the top of the carseat. This is Dorel’s policy for their rear-facing convertibles. The Dorel infant seats require at least 1″ of shell above the child’s head but their convertible seats are outgrown by height when the top of the head is even with the top of the shell.

Sam in Scenera NEXT

Sam is 7 months old and 14 lbs.

The Safest Convertible Carseats? New 2015 Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Best, Better or Basic Crash Protection Rating?  How does your convertible compare?

Over 18 months ago, Consumer Reports implemented a new, more rigorous crash test for carseats and released the results for their rear-facing only infant seat tests. CR’s goal in creating the new test and criteria in rating seats wasn’t to recreate the wheel; every carseat on the market in the U.S. must be able to pass a basic crash test to be sold and thus considered safe. Consumer Reports wanted to find out which seats provide the best head protection since head injuries are very common in crashes, even among properly restrained children.

CR convertible crash test

This new test was designed by an automotive safety engineer and peer-reviewed by an independent crash-testing expert with 40 years of experience in the field. It is conducted on an actual contemporary vehicle seat (a 2010 Ford Flex 2nd row seat) with a floor below it, unlike the government test which has a 70’s era back seat test bench with no floor. There’s a simulated front seat back, called the blocker plate, installed in front of the test seat to mimic a front seat, which is used to test potential injury.  The speed of the test is set at 35 mph. Testing is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. The new “Crash Protection” ratings scale will no longer use the circular blobs, but will instead indicate “basic,” “better,” or “best” at providing crash protection above and beyond baseline safety standards. Those who follow vehicle ratings will recognize the 35 mph test as the same speed that at which the NHTSA NCAP test for vehicles is run. CR’s new test applies 36% more energy to carseats than their old test protocol.  A more severe test would presumably show greater distinction among carseat performance.

So what did CR’s 2015 tests of current convertible carseats find? Specifically, only in 1 rear-facing test out of 25 (4%) did one dummy’s head strike the blocker plate, or simulated front seatback. In contrast, in the infant seat tests, 16 out of 30 (53%) infant seats tested had dummies striking the blocker plate. What does this mean for your child? It means a taller carseat will provide better head protection for taller babies. For this reason Consumer Reports now recommends moving your baby into a rear-facing convertible “sooner, rather than later”, and not waiting until the infant seat is maxed out.

Consumer Reports crash tested convertible carseats in up to 7 configurations,