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Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

When my son was 8 months old we flew from California to Chicago to visit relatives. Although I was not yet a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I understood the importance of using car seats, even on airplanes. So, as a diligent mother, I purchased him a ticket and installed his Britax Wizard rear-facing.

On three of our four flights, we had no problems. On the last one, though, the flight attendant insisted that I turn my son’s seat forward-facing because the passenger in front of him wouldn’t be able to recline. I knew the car seat should stay rear-facing, but with no proof and a plane full of anxious passengers, I acquiesced rather than put up a fight.

If only I had known about the Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory Circular regarding Use of Child Restraint Systems on Aircraft, things might have been different.

The Advisory Circular, which was just updated a few weeks ago, details the FAA’s policies regarding child restraints on planes, and anyone traveling by aircraft with a child in a car seat would be wise to print out a copy and take it onboard. (Please note that the FAA regulations apply to U.S.-based carriers operating inside or outside of the United States. If you’re flying a foreign airline these guidelines won’t necessarily apply.)

To make things easy for you, the traveling parent, I am going to tell you exactly where to find the pertinent information so you can print out the Circular (like above) and highlight what you might need.

Evenflo Maestro Recall – What happened and what you need to know

On Friday, October 15, 2010, Evenflo announced a voluntary recall of certain Evenflo Maestro combination harness/booster seats sold in the US and in Canada.  The recall pertains to all models that were manufactured between 11/24/2009 (inception) and 4/9/2010 in the US.  If you have a Canadian Maestro model – the recall period is 12/17/2009 thru 4/26/2010.  Any models made after the recall period are not affected by this particular problem and we should consider those units safe to use unless we receive information to the contrary.

Before I go into any further details, I just want to take this opportunity to point out the necessity of registering your child restraint products - either by mailing in the completed registration card that came with the seat or by registering it online through the manufacturer’s website.  If you don’t register your carseat or booster, or if you forget to update the registration address when you move, there’s a good chance you could be left in the dark if there’s ever a recall. 

NHTSA’s New 2011 Vehicle Crash Test Results – What’s New, What’s Improved & Why It Matters

The main purpose of the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is to provide consumers with vehicle safety information in order to aid them in their vehicle purchase decisions.  If you’ve heard of  “Government’s 5-star crash test ratings”, then you’re familiar with US-NCAP.   Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled the first round of US-NCAP test results from 2011 model year vehicles that have been rated using their new, improved crash rating system.  Drumroll please….. 

Only two vehicles in this round of testing have earned the top overall rating of 5-Stars.  Those vehicles are the 2011 BMW 5 Series 4-dr rear wheel drive (4 stars frontal, 5 stars side, 5 stars rollover risk) and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata “later release” – need clarification on date (4 stars frontal, 5 stars side, 5 stars rollover risk).  Only one vehicle, the 2011 Nissan Versa earned a poor overall score of 2 stars (3 stars frontal, 2 stars side, 4 stars rollover risk).  The biggest surprise came from the 2011 Camry results.  A 3-star overall rating, worse than most other vehicles tested in this round, was probably a big shock to many.  The main reason it did so poorly?  Ask the poor 5th percentile female dummy who probably needed some serious ATD first-aid after the frontal and side impact Camry tests (only 2 stars for protecting her in each of 3 different tests – ouch!).  Other than the Camry and the Versa, the vast majority of vehicles tested in this round earned an overall score of at least 4 which is very good news.    

Before you can fully appreciate what’s new and improved about these ratings, you have to understand how NHTSA previously rated vehicle for crash-worthiness.  Basically, our US-NCAP frontal crash testing regimen had been virtually unchanged since it began - in 1978.  I kid you not.  They did add a side-impact test in 1997 and rollover resistance ratings in 2001 but the frontal crash test protocol has remained mostly the same for the last 32 years.  

KIM 2010 Updates and News, Part 2

Hey there!  This is Anne (ketchupqueen) again, concluding the news and updates that we were given at the 2010 Kidz In Motion Conference in Ft. Worth, TX.  (You can see Part 1 here.)  Thanks again to Christa (celtic1885) for her help with pictures, fact-checking, and everything else!

Evenflo shared some upcoming updates with us during the manufacturers’ panel.  Evenflo also has 30+ CPSTs on staff, did you know that?  They are in marketing, engineering, quality control, sales, and Parent Link departments.  They did confirm a few things we already knew, but I thought bore repeating in case anyone hasn’t heard- tether extenders are available for all their seats.  LATCH in booster mode is allowed in all of their seats so equipped (3 in 1, combination seats) as long as it does not interfere with proper fit or positioning (for instance, you may not use offset LATCH in booster mode as it would interfere with proper positioning of the belt.)

Evenflo also shared some changes they have made recently or are making.  They are adding color-coding to stickers for greater ease of installation, and as of seats shipping this December, all labels on each seat will have model name and expiration clearly marked, according to Dave Sanders, CPST and engineer who was speaking to us.  All booster weight minimums have now been increased to 40 lbs., and they will not be selling boosters with a weight limit lower than 40 lbs. in the future.  They have updated the fairly-new Maestro so it can be 5 degrees more reclined.  The Embrace handle is being redesigned; the Z-shape will no longer be on the Embrace, it will be shaped like the handle on the Serenade that sits closer to the shell of the seat.  While the “handle down, 1.5 inches clearance” rule does still apply at this time, they are “working on” allowing different handle positions (though I’m not quite holding my breath on that one.)  The weight limit on the Embrace may or may not be increased in the future.