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Tips & Reminders for Preventing Heatstroke Deaths in Hot Cars —Kids Dying at Record Pace

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noheatstroke.orgI wrote a very similar article 2 years ago, but in 2014 on June 20, there had only been 13 heatstroke deaths in vehicles. This year, we’re on a record pace with 16 deaths through the end of June, and we’re up to 23 as of this writing. Even since Jennie wrote about this in her article on May 24, we’ve had FOURTEEN more deaths. It makes me weepy and I’m not a weepy person. At least 6 of these deaths have been vehicle entrapments where the kids have gotten into the vehicles because they were unlocked, but the children lacked the skills to get out. Can you imagine? Two were twins.

These deaths are preventable, but we also have to realize that kids do crazy, unpredictable things and our brains aren’t infallible. Even the most cautious children sometimes do things you never imagined in a million years they would ever do. And even the smartest, most responsible among us can be distracted by a change in routine that can lead us to forget the most valuable cargo in the back seat. This distraction has a name: Forgotten Baby Syndrome and we can help ourselves overcome it.

Here are 10 important tips to help prevent more tragedies:

  1. If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle (including the trunk!) – check neighbor’s pools and vehicles second
  2. Arrange to have your childcare provider contact you when your child doesn’t show up that day. Make sure they have multiple contact numbers to call/text and that they keep calling until they reach a live person.
  3. Keep all vehicles LOCKED at all times, even when they are in the garage and keep your keys/key fobs out of reach
  4. Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat when you are driving
  5. Another option, put one shoe in the back seat when you are driving —you’re not going to walk away from your vehicle without your other shoe!
  6. Make it a habit to always look in the back seat when getting out of the car
  7. Teach your children that it’s NEVER okay to play in the car or to go into the car to get something without a grown-up
  8. Teach your children NEVER to hide or play in the car or inside the trunk
  9. However, also teach your children to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped inside a vehicle
  10. Please don’t forget pets—if it’s too hot for baby in the car, it’s too hot for your pet

To use the overdone cliché—this problem takes a village to solve. We must stop being sanctimonious about being the perfect parent who would *never* forget their child, or never not notice that our child wasn’t where we thought he or she was. We need to stop pointing fingers. I’m certainly not perfect and I dare you not to be as well. We must stand together as parents who are exhausted, overworked, overextended, over-talked at, overtechnologied, and overwhelmed at the point in their child’s life when they must be tuned in the most. As a village, we must look out for each other: if a mom looks like she needs a break for a few minutes, offer one. These days, she’s not likely to ask for it for fear of looking like she can’t make that Pinterest-perfect dinner. If a dad is late to work, ask him if he dropped his kid off at daycare today. If either is having a bad day, or a great day, say “hi” and ask how their kids with the beautiful eyes or curls are doing (surely we can all find something beautiful about a child to comment on?). It may be the one thing that jogs their memory that saves their child’s life that day. These sad stories will only stop when we all take the time together to make sure they end and look out for these kids (and pets too).

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2016 Diono Monterey Belt-Positioning Booster Review

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2016 Diono Monterey Belt-Positioning Booster Review

Monterey Grey

The Diono Monterey has long been a well-loved belt-positioning booster by kids and parents alike. It fits kids of a wide range of body types due to its ability to change width to accommodate growing shoulders and its adjustability to grow with the tallest child. The Monterey is a dual-mode booster, which means it can be used in either high-back or backless mode, so it has versatility built in. The cover is well-padded and soft and kids love the comfort it provides. The booster seat bottom has plenty of leg support for long-legged kiddos while the headrest provides a comfortable resting place with tons of EPS foam for heads. The Monterey is a booster that will easily last your child until they pass the 5-Step Test and can safely transition into an adult seat belt.
Editors' Pick
Because of the value you get for the size range child the Monterey will fit, we chose it for an Editors’ Pick on our Recommended Carseats List.

Weight and Height Limits:

40-120 lbs.; 38-63” tall

Monterey Overview:

  • 11 position headrest
  • Can be installed with lower LATCH connectors
  • Lined with EPS foam
  • Torso wings reinforced with aluminum
  • Torso wings adjust in width up to fit shoulders up to 20”
  • Energy absorbing AirTek™ foam provides cushioning and increased airflow for a more comfortable ride
  • 2 recline positions aids in vehicle compatibility and comfort
  • Retractable deep cup holders

Measurements:

Belt guide heights: 15 ¾”-22”
Inside shoulder width: 14”-17 3/4”
Inside hip width: 11 ¼”
Seat depth: 14”
External widest point: 19 1/8” at torso wings, 18 ¾” at armrests
Seat weight: 15.2 lbs.

The Monterey comes out of the box in 2 pieces, and it can be used backless once your child grows too tall for the back. To assemble the back securely to the base, you’ll lay the backrest face down on the ground and line the base up so the backs are facing each other. Once the hooks of the backrest are lined up to the bar on the base, rotate the base cushion toward the backrest front until it clicks.

Monterey Grey Monterey Bloom Monterey Surf

Fit to Child:

The Monterey received a 2015 IIHS Best Bet rating in highback mode only and a Check Fit rating in backless mode. It’s easy to get a customized fit for kids who may be squeezed out of other boosters.

To adjust the height, pull up on the handle on the back of the headrest to adjust the headrest height. The shoulder belt guides are on the outside of the headrest; they’re marked by red lines on the fabric of the headrest. You’ll want the shoulder belt guides to be above the shoulders so that the shoulder belt falls in the middle of the shoulder for best fit. On the back of the booster is a dial you can turn to widen or tighten the width of the torso wings. Once your child is within 1 cm (about a 1/3”) of the shoulder belt guide when the headrest is in its top setting, it’s time to take the back off and use the booster backless. If the tops of your child’s ears go over the top of the *vehicle* seat back/headrest, then it’s time for a new booster or different option. If the tops of your child’s ears go over the top of the Monterey’s headrest and there’s still a vehicle headrest behind the Monterey, the back can come off and it can be used backless.

Just because the Monterey got a Check Fit while in backless mode doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to use in that mode, it means . . . check the fit on your child. You want to look for a shoulder belt that sits in the middle of the shoulder or slightly toward the neck and a lap belt that is touching the thighs.

Bryson in Monterey Ellie in Monterey

Our models are Bryson who is 6, 52 lbs., and 46” tall, and Ellie who is 6 and about 50 lbs.

Fit to Vehicle:

The Monterey has lower LATCH connectors that can be used for installation of the booster. This is an optional feature. Why attach a booster using LATCH? It keeps it from becoming a projectile in a crash. The seat belt is what is restraining your child and we all know that once kids switch to a booster, they don’t have the time or patience to buckle their boosters in when they jump out of them, so we LATCH them in.

Monterey in MDX

The lower LATCH connectors are upside down on this booster. No, your booster isn’t defective—it was designed this way. Go with it, but be prepared that it will be hard to uninstall. That’s why the smart CPS technicians will make *you* uninstall any upside down connectors when you come to have your carseats checked ;). Here’s the great part, though: with the Monterey, you can install the lower LATCH connectors either upside down or right-side up. It doesn’t matter—I verified it with Diono and if you call them, they’ll tell you the same thing. Why doesn’t it matter in this case? See the above paragraph.

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use:

The cover is hand-wash in cold water and line dry. You may need a flat-head screwdriver or butter knife to pry off the plastic fasteners that hold the cover to the booster.

FAA/Lifespan/Crash:

Because belt-positioning booster seats require the use of lap/shoulder belts, the Monterey cannot be used on an airplane. That doesn’t mean you can’t take it with you on the plane, though, and tuck it into an overhead bin as you travel so your child has a safe booster to sit in at your destination.

The Monterey has a lifespan of 8 years. Diono wants you to replace it after a severe crash.

Advantages:

  • 11 position headrest
  • Can be installed with lower LATCH connectors
  • Lined with EPS foam
  • Torso wings reinforced with aluminum
  • Torso wings adjust in width up to fit shoulders up to 20”
  • 2 recline positions
  • Retractable deep cup holders

Disadvantages:

  • Fairly wide
  • Shoulder belt guides hidden by fabric
  • Requires head support from the vehicle (cannot be used in seating positions that don’t have a head restraint)

The Diono Monterey sample used in this update was provided by Diono. No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.

2016 Britax Boulevard G4.1 Review Update

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Britax Boulevard & Britax Advocate Review G4.1 Convertible Carseats 2016 Update

boulevard onyxBritax continues to be a frontrunner with parents and caregivers looking for user features in their carseats. From the luxury padded covers to the easy peasy LATCH installations, Britax has upheld its reputation for quality products with the Boulevard G4.1 and Advocate G4.1. Parents like knowing the Boulevard will be installed quickly and easily while kids like knowing they’ll be nestling back into a comfy cover with a padded headrest that not only provides a place to sleep, but protects growing heads.  This update applies to the Advocate G4.1.  It is identical to the Boulevard G4.1, with the addition of the external side impact cushion technology and different fashions.  Both models are more compact than average to help fit in smaller vehicles and offer easy LATCH system installation.

The G4.1 line of convertibles are the more reasonably priced seats compared to the ClickTight line, which feature an innovative panel that closes down on the seat belt to make installation a snap. Both lines feature excellent safety protection—they just differ in installation, and the Boulevard and Advocate ClickTights will accommodate taller kids.

What are the differences between the various models of Britax convertibles? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions we get. There are 6 convertible models in 2016. Three are G4.1: Roundabout, Marathon, and Boulevard. Three are ClickTights: Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate.

  • Britax Roundabout: This is the most budget-friendly Britax convertible. It lacks the no-rethread harness found on some higher models, but that’s really not a big deal unless you’re frequently transporting kids of different sizes in one carseat. It has a 55 pound weight limit and a 15.75″ seated torso height limit. MSRP $179.99
  • Britax Marathon: This model adds a no-rethread harness, up to 65 pounds and 16.75″ seated torso height. It also adds the EZ-Buckle crotch strap and an easy-remove cover. It lacks the deeper headwings found on the Boulevard model. MSRP $289.99
  • Britax Boulevard: This model has all the features of the Marathon, but also has deeper internal headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes. It also includes advanced HUGS pads with SafeCell technology and the “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator. MSRP $329.99
  • Britax Marathon ClickTight: This model has a no-rethread harness and standard rubber HUGS pads. The top harness slot height and the overall height are about 2″ shorter than the Blvd CT and Advocate CT models. MSRP $329.99
  • Britax Boulevard ClickTight: All the features of the Marathon CT plus SafeCell HUGS pads; deeper headwings; “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator, top harness slots and overall height 2″ taller than Marathon CT. The Boulevard CT is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat AND Editors’ Pick. MSRP $369.99
  • Britax Advocate ClickTight: All the features of the Boulevard CT plus external side-impact cushions. The Advocate CT is also a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat. The Advocate CT is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat. MSRP $419.99

Britax Convertible Features Comparison:

*Tip: If you’re viewing from your phone – turn it sideways to see more columns of the chart in landscape mode.

 

Boulevard G4.1 Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing:  5-40 lbs., and head is 1” below red adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 20-65 lbs., and 49” or less, and tops of the ears are below the top of the head restraint

Boulevard G4.1 Overview:

  • SafeCell™ Technology in the base: these cells compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity of the child and reduces forward head excursion
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam that lines the entire back and sides of the plastic shell
  • Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch Versa-Tether®
  • SafeCell HUGS chest pads: energy-absorbing and have a ridged edge that better keeps the chest clip in place
  • Integrated steel bars strengthen the seat and keep it from flexing forward in a crash
  • 2 layers of side impact protection: deep protective shell and an energy-absorbing headrest
  • No re-thread harness with 10 harness height positions
  • 2 crotch strap positions
  • Infant cushion for children up to 22 lbs.
  • Built-in lockoffs
  • Dual lower deluxe push-on LATCH connectors (one strap for each side of the carseat—no feeding it through the belt path)
  • Smooth bottom base with grippy edges that won’t damage vehicle upholstery
  • Optional anti-rebound bar for rear-facing

Measurements:

  • Harness height: 9”-17”, 6 ½” bottom slots with infant cushion
  • External widest point: 19″
  • Usable shell height with headrest: 26”
  • Shoulder width: 13”
  • Crotch strap depth: 4 ½”, 7”
  • Seat depth: 12”
  • Seat weight: 18.6 lbs.

Current Fashions

Boulevard Onyx Boulevard Laguna Boulevard Congo Boulevard Legacy Boulevard Domino Boulevard Silver Birch

Installation:

  • Rear-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs.
  • Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 50 lbs.
  • Installation is color-coded for ease: blue for rear-facing, green for forward-facing
  • Top tether length has been shortened, but for the most part, this shouldn’t be a problem. Contact Britax at 1-888-427-4829 for a tether extender. As of 2015, the tether is no longer allowed to be used rear-facing out of concern for interference with front seat airbag sensors. An anti-rebound bar is available directly from Britax for parents and caregivers who prefer that extra level of protection.

Britax Boulevard with ARB

Center LATCH Installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Permitted only in designated LATCH positions; if your vehicle doesn’t have dedicated lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position, you cannot install this carseat with LATCH.

Inflatable Seat Belts:

Britax allows their convertibles (EXCEPTION: ClickTight convertibles) to be installed with Ford and Lincoln inflatable seat belts. They do NOT allow inflatable airplane seat belt installation. See their Inflatable Seat Belt Policy.

Comments:

  • The infant cushion MUST be used for children weighing 22 lbs. or less in a rear-facing position. DO NOT use over 22 lbs. DO NOT use in a forward-facing position. There’s even a label on it in case you forget!
  • Use the lockoff closest to the buckle if installing the Boulevard with a seat belt.
  • Get best results with the Click & Safe harness adjuster by removing slack from the thighs in an upward motion through the chest first while pulling harness tight.
  • The Boulevard expires 7 years after date of manufacture and Britax follows the NHTSA crash replacement policy.

BritaxBoulevardG4.1RF BritaxBoulevardG4.1FF

Advantages:

  • Deep headwings provide enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
  • Durable EPP foam, rip-stitch tether, HUGS pads and SafeCell Technology in base all work together to absorb energy in a crash
  • Click & Safe snug harness indicator provides audible and tactile feedback to let you know when the harness is sufficiently snug
  • One of the easiest LATCH installs on the market!
  • “Non-Handed” lower LATCH straps allow you to easily switch the connectors from rear-facing to forward-facing and vice versa
  • No re-thread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt
  • Relatively easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
  • Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
  • Velcro on harness keeps straps out of the way when loading and unloading child from seat
  • EZ-Buckle System keeps belly pad and buckle out of the way when loading child in the seat
  • Buckle style is easy to buckle and unbuckle
  • Harness straps are replaceable if necessary
  • HUGS pads may be removed when the child is rear-facing (but they are required for forward-facing)
  • Available anti-rebound bar
  • Rear-facing recline angle range of 30-45 degrees allowed
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need a full 45* recline). This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
  • Easy to remove cover
  • Premium fabrics and extra padding for comfort
  • Made in the USA!

Disadvantages:

  • May be difficult to clamp the lockoffs closed in some vehicles if installing with seatbelt
  • Seatbelt installation using lockoff is not intuitive – read and follow directions carefully
  • Rear-facing legroom is generally less than some other competitive (non-Britax) convertible models
  • Click & Safe snug harness indicator can be helpful but isn’t foolproof
  • Rear-facing height limit isn’t as tall as some other models, like the new Britax ClickTight convertibles
  • The Boulevard is relatively expensive at $329.99 MSRP, but is often on sale for under $250 at Amazon.com

The Britax Boulevard G4.1 sample used in this update was provided by Britax USA. No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.

Takata Airbag Recall: Get Your Car Fixed NOW!

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An attempt to save money takes lives and ultimately costs millions in fines. Are you flipping mad yet? You should be.

Takata logoIn the largest auto recall in history, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled to have 28.8 million airbags replaced. Takata airbag inflators have injured more than 100 people and killed 11 people: 10 in the U.S. and 1 in Malaysia, with the most recent being a 17 year old Texas girl on March 31. The 17 year old was driving a 2002 Honda Civic and, according to Honda, several recall notices had been sent to the registered owners (they claim not to have received any).

This story has been in the news for years and you’ve probably paid some attention to it just because of its frequency on the news, but with the media’s fixation on the election, disease du jour, ISIS, and so on, a few airbag deaths get left behind in our daily news consumption of dread.

What’s been happening is that the airbag itself isn’t killing drivers: it’s shrapnel from the explosive device used to deploy the airbag. These metal fragments explode out at such a force that they slice right through skin, eyes, arteries, and even spinal columns. This is happening when the airbags deploy in minor crashes, collisions from which the victims should be walking away.

Before you run out and disconnect your airbags (and I know some of you will), these explosive devices, or inflators, are needed in order to deploy the airbag. In fact, they’re in other safety devices throughout your vehicle and activate in crashes, but we’re focusing on airbags here. When the airbag sensors detect a crash, the inflators ignite, starting a chemical reaction that fills the airbag with gas. It sounds crazy scary, but airbags have saved thousands of lives. Between 2010 and 2013 (the latest year from which we have data), 9,554 lives were saved by frontal airbags. Many thousands upon thousands more lives have been saved since the frontal airbag was introduced in the ‘70s.

Background

Problems with exploding airbags initially cropped up back in 2004 in Alabama when a Honda Accord airbag exploded, injuring its driver. Because it was the first incident, both Honda and Takata chalked it up to being an anomaly and moved on without issuing a recall. According to the New York Times, Honda did report the incident to NHTSA, but didn’t elaborate in the report that it was an airbag rupture. Then again in 2007, three more ruptures were reported to Honda, and again, Honda did not elaborate in their reports to NHTSA that the airbags were exploding. In 2007, Honda told Takata of the ruptures and Takata went to work to find the cause: manufacturing problems at their Mexican plant. However, the ruptures continued and after more testing, Takata linked the problem to manufacturing problems at their Washington state factory.

Recalls began in 2008 and initially only driver’s side airbag inflators were recalled, but passenger airbag inflators were added as those started to rupture as well. Then in August 2015, side airbag inflators came under inspection when a Volkswagen Tiguan’s seat mounted side airbags ruptured after a collision with a deer. GM also reported a rupture to NHTSA. This “SSI-20” inflator is found in Volkswagen and GM vehicles and has been recalled in those vehicles too.

Takata Timeline