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Unsafe Infant Child Seats Found in Crash Tests? Don’t Panic. Yet.

As you may know, the Chicago Tribune recently revealed data from some testing done by the government on infant car seats.  This wasn’t the usual sled testing used to pass child restraint models for sale to consumers.  It was a new type of testing done for research in conjunction with the NCAP testing of new vehicles by the NHTSA, something not required for child seats.  Are the flaws a major concern?  Is this important for the safety of your baby?  Is it another Consumer Reports type of blunder with improper test methods, leading to hysteria among parents?  Perhaps somewhere in between?

I’m out of town on a short trip, but Heather and Kecia are working round-the-clock to sort through all the fine details!  Stay tuned this week for the 411 on what you really need to know about crash tests and infant carrier and base child seat models from Graco, Combi and others.  In the mean time, federal officials interested in a long-overdue update of their standards might read our blog from last year on the subject of inadequate testing:

http://carseatblog.com/?p=121

The Carseat Bible?

A lot of resources are thrown around by child passenger safety advocates.  Safe Kids, the NHTSA, Transport CanadaSafetyBeltSafe USA, Safe Ride News and, of course, CarseatBlog.com.  All of these sources have good information and should be on a must read list for parents interested in reducing their child’s risk from the #1 killer of kids.  There is one resource that may be the most respected of all.

It has been updated for 2009, though it appears similar for the most part to the 2008 version.  It’s none other than Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families 2009, by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  It’s a great collection of basic advice for both parents and doctors.  Sadly, many pediatrician’s are not up-to-date on injury prevention issues such as child passenger safety.  If your pediatrician is giving advice that is different from what is in this guide, you should politely suggest that they order copies for their patients and take the time to read it themselves!

It’s not a perfect guide.  It’s lacking references to vital resources such as Carseatblog.com, Carseatsite.com and Car-Seat.Org.  Aside from that, it’s definitely worth the time to read and to pass along what you learn to other parents of young children!

Britax Frontier Recall

Here is some information from Britax on the voluntary recall of the Frontier:

 

Britax Frontier™ Harness-2-Booster [Recall]

 

Model Numbers: E9L54E7, E9L54H6, E9L54H7, and E9L54M6 (black harnesses)

Manufacture Dates: April 1, 2008 through September 14, 2008

 

Model Number: E9L5490 (beige harnesses)

Manufacture Dates: April 1, 2008 through September 17, 2008

Graco ComfortSport Recall

Have you heard the latest news?  Graco has to recall 43,994 “Frazier” ComfortSport convertible carseats because of an insert cushion “that partially obscures the child airbag warning label”.  I’m working on saying that without laughing but so far I haven’t been successful.  Honestly, it’s really not funny – it’s ridiculous.  If you’ve read my previous blog post “Recalls – the good, the bad and the ridiculous” you know how I feel about the subject. 

In this case, the recall “fix” is to stop using the extra pillow insert that came with the seat.  I wonder how much money this recall campaign is going to cost Graco?  On the one hand it seems unfair that they have to recall all these seats just because the airbag warning label is partially obscured by the insert.  I mean really, if some moron is going to put a RF convertible in the front seat with an active airbag – a little thing like a visable airbag warning label isn’t going to stop them.  

On the other hand, Graco should really know better.  It’s not like they’re new to this whole FMVSS213 thing.  Plus, I can’t help but to point out that if they had replaced the ancient ComfortSport (which is now almost 10 years old and wasn’t even their own design to begin with) with a new, improved convertible seat years ago then they probably wouldn’t have this problem now.  Instead, they resorted to marketing tactics like cutesy covers, pillows and padding up the wazoo to entice consumers to buy their outdated product.      

With all that said, I think there’s actually a bigger issue here.  If, as a CPS professional, my job is to take these ridiculous recalls seriously – what exactly are my obligations when a parent shows up with the exact same seat, with the exact same pillow covering the AB warning label but it’s not a “Frazier” cover so it’s not  recalled?   If NHTSA is going to be serious about this kind of stuff then they can’t stop at Frazier.  Not when Alesia, Westcliff, Felicia, Wheaton and Eva ComfortSports all have the same insert.  That would really be ridiculous.

The IIHS booster seat fit study – the “best” fitting booster seat?

As most of you are now aware, the IIHS has released the findings of their “fit” study on the effectiveness of Belt Positioning Booster (BPB) seats.  In this study, they did not actually crash test any of the various boosters seats – they just evaluated how the different boosters positioned the lap/soulder seatbelt on the 6 year old Hybrid III crash test dummy.  While I applaud the Institute for taking this initiative it is important that we, as parents, CPS technicians,  and advocates learn to assess what constitutes a “good belt fit” and what doesn’t.  Memorizing a list of “Best Bets” and “Not Recommended” choices isn’t very helpful overall, although I do think that some of those manufacturers who received several poor ratings for their products might want to seriously reevalute their designs.  Honestly, we’ve been saying for years that most combo and 3-in-1 seats do NOT do a very good job of positioning the seatbelt properly when the seat is used in booster mode.   Maybe now we’ll finally start to see some improvements in these suboptimal designs.  We can hope, right?