News Archive

CarseatBlog’s Updated List of Recommended Carseats!

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It’s been a while since we last updated our list of recommended child restraints. Some models have been updated, some discontinued and many new products have been introduced. A few weeks ago we started the process of revising and updating the entire list and after much thought and discussion we arrived at a consensus. Behold our Updated List of Recommended Carseats!

We acknowledge that many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints.  All child safety seats pass the same tests, they are all safe, blah, blah, blah.  In their class to become certified, most techs were told never to tell a parent that one child seat or brand is better than any other.  Instead, technicians are instructed to tell parents that the best seat is the one that fits their child, their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly.  Nothing wrong with that.

Problem is, once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences.  Some child restraints do tend to fit better in general, while some are really easier to use in general.  Even so, back in the CPS dark ages, rogue technicians who discussed the reality of different child seats were routinely burned at the stake! This very topic about the best or safest car seats even gave our dearly departed Marvin his career as a blogger!

Thankfully, those days of CPS witch hunts are long gone.  The ”no recommendations” concept came to an end a few years back when the mighty NHTSA started recommending seats themselves.  They didn’t make these recommendations based upon crash testing.  No, they were made upon a subjective determination of factors relating to ease-of-use.  Ironically, these factors were no more likely to apply to someone’s own child and vehicle than the recommendations of an experienced technician!  Enter another respected institution, the IIHS.  A few years back they began rating boosters based on fit to a standardized dummy.  Again, no crash testing whatsoever.  Again, no guarantees that the results apply to any particular child in any specific vehicle.

So, who is CarseatBlog to go recommending specific child seats?  Sure, Heather and Kecia are very experienced certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructors.  And Darren has been a certified technician for more than a decade and has like a zillion websites on the topic.  We’ve all been involved with local Safe Kids organizations, SafetyBeltSafe USA and other groups.  And we like to think that we’ve developed a great reputation in the professional CPS community. Most importantly, though, we’re just parents who have used a lot of different car seats.  Like many products we use daily, we know which ones we tend to like in general, which ones we’d use without reservation for our own kids and which ones we are comfortable recommending to CarseatBlog readers and visitors.

So, please take our carseat recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all.  And while we did thoughtfully consider the pros and cons of each seat and combine that with our personal experiences with the product – there’s no crash testing involved.  Some seats were omitted because we opted to include a similar model from the same manufacturer.   For others, we simply didn’t have enough experience with the product to make an opinion at all.  There are a number of products that we don’t mention, if only because a list of every seat we like would be too inclusive, so products that we don’t include may still be worth your consideration!  Conversely, some seats we do list may just not work well for you, your child or your vehicle.  We’re not saying these are the best or safest choices in child car seats, we’re just saying they’re models we think you should consider.  If nothing else, it’s a good place to start when you are carseat or booster shopping!

Please feel free to leave a comment if you think one of our recommendations is rubbish or if you know of a product that you feel deserves a mention!  Unlike some other organizations that think their word is the final one, we know our readers have recommendations just as valid as our own!

Get Fired Up

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Picture this: In an attempt to shift the blame in deaths caused by house fires, Big Tobacco enlists firefighters and shoddy science to sway the public and politicians to help create fire-retardancy standards. Then the chemical industry sets up and funds a trade group that pays “concerned professionals” and “ordinary people” to champion its efforts under the guise of a “citizens organization.” One of the people it pays includes a doctor, the head of the American Burn Association, who testifies in front of state legislatures about babies killed due to a lack of fire retardants…only those babies don’t exist. To top it off, the flame retardants don’t work as promised anyway, and the government is unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

That’s not the stuff of a paranoid conspiracy theory or a John Grisham novel. It’s from an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune that examines the origin and future of flame-retardancy standards in America.

I’ll briefly summarize the report here, but read it yourself for the full details. It’s an engrossing—and largely appalling—read.

Several decades ago, the tobacco industry was facing a public relations nightmare—not due to cancer deaths, but due to people dying in house fires caused by cigarettes. Rather than taking the heat or creating safer cigarettes, the industry decided to shift the blame to the furnishings that were catching on fire.

Obviously, the tobacco companies wouldn’t have much credibility spreading the idea that it was the furniture’s fault, so the industry decided to woo firefighters and fire safety organizations to their cause through grants and perks. A former tobacco industry executive came up with the idea of creating a firefighting organization to help their efforts. Thus, the National Association of State Fire Marshals was born.

It’s not quite clear to what extent the fire marshals realized they were pawns in a game to get people to support adding fire-resistant chemicals to furniture. Some of them thought the head of their association was a volunteer, not aware that he was being paid by tobacco companies. Regardless, the association worked to promote fire-retardant furniture (and maybe even genuinely believed in the cause) even as other firefighters expressed concerns about effectiveness and the more-toxic smoke produced when these products burn.

Oh, and that tobacco executive? He later went on to serve as a lobbyist for the chemical industry.

But hey, at least we’re protected, right?

Maybe not. Government studies have found no meaningful difference between household items treated with chemicals and those without. In addition, both produced a similar amount of smoke, which (as opposed to being engulfed in flames) is what usually causes deaths in fires.

New Type of Crash Test

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Cars are safer than ever before, yet drivers are still being injured at alarming rates. Why is that? We’re padded in balloon-like airbag compartments with crush zones and safety cages designed to absorb crash energy so our bodies won’t. Even our knees are protected by airbags in some vehicles! Yet there are still over 10,000 deaths from frontal crashes each year. Why? Small overlap frontal crashes.

Certainly there are unsurvivable crashes. That’s a given. But we can improve our vehicles even more in small overlap frontal crashes. What’s a small overlap frontal crash? It’s that thin slice of area to the left or right of the engine, where the front fenders are. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has designed a new crash test for that area and the majority of midsize luxury and near-luxury cars earn only marginal or poor ratings in this test. Only two IIHS 2012 Top Safety Pick cars, the Acura TL and the Volvo S60, earn Good ratings, while the Infinity G earns an Acceptable rating. The new test has 25% of the vehicle’s front end striking a 5 foot tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The dummy used is the 50th percentile male Hybrid III. IIHS is currently the only entity performing the test.

Vehicle manufacturers, to this point, have designed vehicles that perform well for current frontal crash tests, meaning the crush zones protect occupants in head-on or offset collisions. There’s no structure on the edge of many vehicles for occupant protection, which is why small overlap frontal crashes are so deadly. In a 2009 IIHS study, nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes that involved serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants were due to small overlap crashes in vehicles that received good frontal crash ratings.

In a small overlap frontal crash, the crash forces go to the outside edges of the vehicle. The affected side’s wheel, suspension system, and firewall are pushed back. The A-pillar (the main pillar that holds your windshield and blocks your view) can be pushed back into the passenger compartment and footwells can be compromised. It’s also a gray area for airbags. Frontal airbags are designed to go off for this type of impact, but side and torso airbags may or may not deploy, depending on the algorithms some manufacturers use in adjusting their airbag sensitivity. Side airbags are generally designed to deploy when a vehicle is hit on the side, as when you’re T-boned. Because the steering column moved to the right in the Lincoln MKZ, the dummy’s head and chest completely missed the front airbag in one test.

Vehicle manufacturers will no doubt be quick to head back to the drawing board to work on new safety designs for this test. The IIHS tested luxury and near-luxury vehicles because they tend to have the latest and greatest safety items before more affordable vehicles. Top-selling vehicles, such as the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry, will be tested next.

The BubbleBum that doesn’t look like Bubble Gum!

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Many of you already know that it’s now available in black and silver.  This may not only match your vehicle interior better, but perhaps also make it a little more palatable for older boys in particular!  I have a 7-year old son who uses the BubbleBum frequently and perhaps this will be a way to keep it in use until he’s at least nine:-)  We have a review of the BubbleBum inflatable booster, and the new one is different only in color!

For now, it’s available only at Target.com online, for $39.99.  Expect to see it at other retailers later this year.