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Distracted Driving

textingdrivingI had to run some errands today, the first of which involved getting on the freeway. I don’t particularly like merging onto this freeway because it’s a two-lane feeder and I either get blown off the road by someone going well over the speed limit or stuck behind poke-along-Stanley. Today it was poke-along-Stanley going 10 mph under the speed limit, made extra frustrating because he had his cell phone butt 4” away from his mouth talking speaker-phone style, selfishly oblivious to the fact there were cars around him.

My state has had a hands-free law for a year and a half now that is widely ignored. With a first offense penalty of $50, why not? The real cost comes from the time lost it takes to actually be pulled over to receive the ticket. Only after the third offense does the fine become $250, a bit more painful. According to authorities, ticket-writing has gone up 93% this year over the same time period last year. Ninety-three percent! And I still don’t go through an intersection without seeing at the very least 3 drivers using their cell phones in some manner. No one can say why drivers are still ignoring the hands-free law, other than they simply don’t see it as a deterrent. Apparently it’s easy to gripe about how poorly everyone drives while using their cell phones, yet still continue to practice the bad habit.

It’s been shown that using a cell phone while driving reduces concentration on driving by 37%. That’s a little over a third for those of us who aren’t mathematically inclined. Imagine taking a test in school and having a third of your score chopped off. That’s an automatic D on your test right there. Is anyone really satisfied with a D on a test?

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have primary enforcement hand-held cell phone bans. Thirty-seven states and D.C. ban all cell use by beginning drivers, though only 20 states and D.C. ban it for school bus drivers. Shouldn’t all states ban school bus drivers from using cell phones? That’s a pretty scary statistic. The picture of a school bus driver chatting away on her cell phone while pandemonium breaks out behind her isn’t a pleasant one. And hang out on a corner next to a high school when it gets out for the day and you know that new drivers aren’t staying off their phones: 71% of teens have typed text messages while driving and 78% of them have read one while driving. Now those are scary statistics!

How many of us have seen what we thought for sure was a drunk driver, weaving in and out of a lane, only to catch up toCell-Stop-Sign-10x15 see it was a texting driver? Forty-three states and D.C prohibit texting by drivers. That doesn’t seem to matter much to the texter, though. They just have to get that message sent, regardless of how many lanes they take up or how many lives they take in the process. Someone who is texting is 23 times more likely to be in a crash than someone who is not distracted by texting.

We can preach all we want about not using our cell phones and not texting and driving, but it’s time to get real and own up to it.  One option is a portable hands-free device, like the one Darren reviewed recently.  My Acura MDX has a Bluetooth feature that I make use of so I don’t need to touch my phone while I drive, but it’s still clunky trying to find someone in my phonebook to make a call.  If I have to make a call, I pull over. It’s that simple. To answer a call, it’s a push of a button—much easier. I’m fortunate that I don’t get many calls on my cell, maybe one every other month when I’m in the car. I used to text only at red lights while my brakes were applied, but I decided I didn’t like that feeling of not knowing what was going on around me. They were always quick texts: “on my way,” “what do you want at store,” that kind of thing. But even though I was stationary, I was still distracted. A driver should always be scanning the roadway whenever the car is near others. Besides, the real point is to be a good example for my kids. They aren’t in the car with me much anymore, but when they are, I don’t want them seeing me using my phone. I’ve never been a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of parent and I’m not about to start with my cell phone. My rule-following son won’t be a problem; my daughter, on the other hand . . . We may have to invest in some in-vehicle cameras. That will no doubt be fodder for another blog in the future.

There are lots of resources I plan on sharing with my kids when they start to drive, and that’s coming sooner than I’d like to think. NHTSA has distraction.gov where you can find out your state law on cell phone use, research, a pledge you and your kids can take, and survivor videos. AT&T has the It Can Wait no texting and driving campaign. If you have an Android phone, AT&T offers 2 free apps called AT&T DriveMode and Safely Go. AT&T DriveMode sends a customizable response to incoming texts letting your friends know you’re driving. Safely Go auto-replies to texts and auto-sends your calls to voicemail. Let’s not forget that AT&T has the “From One Second to the Next” documentary that follows 4 survivors of texting-causes crashes that will change your view of “yeah, but it’s only a quick text” forever. Impatience has gotten the best of me at times, but this is definitely one area where I keep the phone down. It’s not worth it. Is it worth it to you?

Kids Are Dying

Since we shared this graphic one month ago, 9 additional children have died of heatstroke in vehicles. In ONE month. That’s a total of 13 to this point in 2014–13 too many. Please share this graphic on Facebook without judgement. We can all forget when we’re exhausted and overworked.

  • Have your childcare call you when your child doesn’t show up that day
  • Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat
  • Always look in the back seat when getting out of the car
  • Keep a shoe in the back seat
  • If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle
  • Do what it takes!

don't forget

New Parent Carseat Basics: What You Need to Know

pg hwYou’ve peed on the stick and found out you’re pregnant. Yay! (Or not. Who am I to say?) You’ve gone to Target, and Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com and registered for every single baby item under the sun that’s plastic and can be sanitized and trust me, it all coordinates, right? Now you’ve come down to the final weeks and it’s panic time when you realize this baby is coming out one way or another and you have to get it home. You just stick Baby in the carseat and go, right? No. Nope. No way, new parent. You are now attending Carseat 101 and there will be a quiz at the end. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors!

First, let’s go over some vocab you’ll need for the next, oh, decade or so. Yeah, baby, your precious is going to be in a seat for a loonngg time. In chronological order, please:

Infant seat: This carseat is used for newborns to sometimes toddlerhood. It’s easily identified by its handle, canopy, and left-in-the-car base. The carrier portion fits onto the base.

photo  Chicco KeyFit30 Fuego

Convertible seat: This carseat can be used for newborns, but is often used after a child outgrows an infant seat. It rear-faces, then converts to forward-facing for older kids.

GracoSize4Me70newborn2  GracoHeadWise70FF

Combination seat: This carseat is for older kids, the kind who order combo meals at fast food restaurants (and yes, you too, will succumb to buying your child a grease-loaded meal item at some point). A combo seat FORWARD-FACES ONLY. It has a harness to keep wiggly kids safe, then the harness comes off and it can be a belt-positioning booster. See why it’s for older kids only? It combines a harness and a booster into one seat. You don’t always need a combo seat. Sometimes your child can go straight from a convertible seat to a belt-positioning booster, depending on which convertible she uses and how old and big she is.

Photo Oct 02, 2 20 32 PM  Britax Pinnacle 90 belt fit

Belt-positioning booster seat: This carseat is for kids who nearly have gray hair. Just kidding. Barely. The purpose of a booster seat is to boost a kid up higher so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt will fit them superbly over their bones, not their soft bellies. Kids have to have a certain amount of maturity in order to sit still in a vehicle seat belt and that comes around ages 4-6, depending on the child. Most parents find their kids transitioning out of a harness around ages 5-6, when “real” school starts, not that “pre-“ stuff. There are highback and backless varieties of boosters. Highbacks are great for the younger crowd because they provide head and torso support for sleeping. Backless boosters are harder to see from outside the car, so older, image-conscious kids like them better. Kids use booster seats until they can 5-step—fit in the belt like an adult—which is when they get to be the size of a small adult, around age 10-11.

lap and shoulder belt fit  Graco Connext buckle side

Let’s identify that you’ve gotten the right carseat for you. It used to be that an infant seat was an infant seat was an infant seat. Basically, all the carriers did more or less the same thing—it was the bases that distinguished them. Now we have carriers that fit small babies very well, some that don’t, some that have no-rethread harnesses, some that have canopies that disappear, and some that fit kids up to 40 lbs. There’s quite a variety from which to choose and that can cause more confusion than ever! What’s my very first piece of advice to you in this area? Don’t insist on a travel system. Pick the very best infant seat that will work for you, then pick the very best stroller you can afford and put them together. Many strollers come with adapter bars and with a little bit of research on their website, you can find if the infant seat you want will fit on the stroller you want. The patterns may not match perfectly, but you will get a much better stroller this way usually unless you buy a high-end infant seat/stroller combo to begin with. I speak from experience: you don’t want to be stuck with a stroller you hate for years because you wanted to be all matchy-matchy with an infant seat you use for months. To help you in your search, we have both thorough, professional reviews and a list of our favorite seats.

Most of the time you will know if you’re going to have a small, average, or large baby by the end of your 40 weeks. If you and your partner are small folks and come from small families, genetics won’t let you down. Look for an infant seat that starts with a low birth weight of 4 lbs. It’s the same if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or if you’re having multiples. Fortunately, there are lots of infant seats that now have a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs., but they don’t always fit the preemie-sized babies well. We have a list of our favorite seats that fit preemies and multiples. If you’re having an average- or large-sized baby, any infant seat will do, though you’ll get more bang for your buck with a larger one. The size of your vehicle also has to be factored in since the larger the infant seat, the more space it takes up in the vehicle.

Prezi Keyfit compared

 

Now for some answers to common questions:

It Won’t Happen to You, Right?

That’s what we all think. Yet it happens every year when a change in our routines lead our sleep-deprived selves to forget our children in the back seat. So far in 2014, 4 children have died in the back seats of cars. Don’t let this happen to you or someone you know.

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Breaking News! The First Years Leaves the Carseat Business

tomyTOMY has decided to pull all its carseat brands from the market. These brands include Compass, The First Years, JJ Cole, Lamaze, and Learning Curve.

Carseat companies have gone out of business in the past, most notably Fisher Price. It doesn’t necessarily mean the product was bad; either the company decided to go in a different direction, the cost of production was too high, or there were too many problems with a seat. In the case of TOMY, it was a financial decision. After all, when a single crash test is thousands of $ per seat, you can see how it requires a lot of money to be in this business. TOMY will continue its production of strollers under The First Years and JJ Cole brands.

  the-first-years-ialert-true-fit-C685-stock    

 

Statement from TOMY:

“TOMY has made the difficult decision to exit the car seat business. Despite very positive consumer reviews, based in part on our five star NHSTA ratings, we have determined that the economics of the category will prevent us from reaching the level of success necessary for continued investment. We have stopped production and are currently working with our retail partners to sell remaining inventory. We will continue to market our collection of lightweight strollers sold under the First Years and JJ Cole brands. Our customer service team remains available to you to assist with any questions or concerns you may have through this transition period.”

 

What does this mean to you as an owner of a TOMY carseat?

Eventually all replacement parts will be depleted either over time as owners call and request them or if a recall happens.

What should you do?

Continue using your carseat as normal. It’s still fine, right? It’s going to be fine tomorrow. The seats made by TOMY are quality products. There may be some nice sales in the near future on True Fit Convertibles, Contigo Infant Seats and B540/B570 Folding Boosters — and if you find one, consider it, but know that replacement parts likely won’t be there in the future should you need them (maybe I’m an oddity, but over the course of my kids being in carseats, I didn’t need replacement parts for any of my carseats, so . . .).