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The Tether Paradox

photoChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the leading institutes on children’s safety issues, recently published a blog post, Over the Top- The case for the tether, about the importance of top tethers. CHOP conducted a study that found, not surprisingly, that top tethers are pretty darn important things.

We already know that tethers reduce head excursion in properly installed seats. This study examined how top tethers affect incorrectly installed seats, too. The results showed that, combined with a loose seatbelt installation, top tethers still reduced head excursion. When combined with a belt misrouted through the wrong beltpath, top tethers reduced forward rotation of the car seat.

Obviously, a properly installed seat is ideal, but with more than 80% of seats installed incorrectly, maybe it’s good to have a “second line of defense,” as CHOP put it.

NextFit tethered   Britax Pavilion tethered in Ford Freestar  top-tether-anchor- ceiling

The problem we face, though, is that tethers are no longer the easy answer they once were. Changes in LATCH requirements are leading many vehicle manufacturers to change their LATCH limits, and some are including top tethers in those limits. That means that in some vehicles, you must discontinue top tether use once a child reaches 40 pounds. Other vehicles have higher limits or none at all for top tethers, but this information often isn’t available to consumers, and manufacturers themselves often seem unsure of the answer.

SafeKids, the certifying body of American CPSTs, has made things “easy” by stating that we must not use top tethers beyond 40 pounds unless otherwise allowed by the manufacturer. Gone are the days of telling parents to use top tethers whenever anchors are available.

I realize that LATCH is confusing. The aim of new regulations is to make things easier, but easy isn’t always better. Top tether use shouldn’t be limited in order to make things uniform or to protect manufacturers from theoretical liability. Given what we know of the benefits of top tether use, it should be limited only if there are known disadvantages, and so far no one has come forward with those.

Graco Updates Carseat Buckle Design

gracozoomAs we have noted in the past, the buckles Graco has used on many of their carseats were changed a couple years ago.  Many of our readers and forum members have mentioned that the current ones can sometimes be more difficult to buckle and unbuckle than the previous design.  Part of the problems some owners experience appear to develop over time, as the mechanism gets dirty from routine spills, crumbs, dust and other stuff.  A proper cleaning can resolve some of these issues (see below), but Graco has also announced an update to the design being phased-in on various products!

 

The seats that will have the updated buckle include the MyRide 65/70, Size4Me/My Size 70/Head Wise 70 featuring Safety Surround, Nautilus and Argos car seats.

Consumers will begin to the see the updated buckles on some seats at the end of this month.

 

GracocurrentGracoupdated

 

The change can be seen on the current (left) and updated (right) Graco Nautilus Car Seat above.  It’s no secret that CarseatBlog has often preferred the buckle systems made by IMMI (SafeGuard), and we are very happy to see that Graco will be using them!  Be sure to stay tuned next week for an awesome Graco giveaway at CarseatBlog!

For those having an issue with the buckles on a Graco model they already own, do not despair!  Graco’s great customer service has provided some options for you:

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible – now with rear-facing tether capabilities!

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible - Alcantara fashionWe think very highly of the Peg Perego Viaggio Convertible and that’s why it’s on our list of Recommended Seats. Recently Peg Perego added the option to tether this seat in the rear-facing position. Rear-facing tethering isn’t required but it’s an added bonus if you have a suitable location in your vehicle to use for this purpose.

For those who are unfamiliar with the practice of “Swedish Style” tethering and its benefits – please see Heather’s very informative blog on the subject: How to Use a Rear-Facing Tether

Peg Perego added the rear facing tether strap to the 570 convertible seat in March 2013. All seats manufactured after 3/2013 include the additional RF tether strap. Anyone with a 570 Convertible made prior to March 2013 can obtain the rear-facing tether strap by calling Peg Perego during regular business hours at  (800) 671-1701.

PegViaggioConvertible - RF tether instructions

 

PegViaggioConvertible - RF tether instructions 2

 

The Peg Perego tether connector strap looks like this:

Peg RF tether strap

 

Peg strap compared with the current style Britax tether connector strap (Peg strap on top, Britax strap below). The current Britax “D-Ring” is just a hair longer (maybe .5 cm longer).

Peg vs. Britax RF tether strap

 

Peg Perego Viaggio Convertible installed RF with tether strap accessory:

Peg Viaggio Convertible installed with RF tether

 

For more information on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 5-70 Convertible see our complete blog review HERE.

 

The Peg Viaggio Convertible is sold directly from Amazon.com for $329.99 with free shipping and free returns.

Making the Back Seat Safer for Kids

chop_infographic_final

Today the brilliant and dedicated team from the Center for Injury Prevention and Research at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) released a new CPS Issue Report “Optimizing the Rear Seat for Children – April 2013” which highlights some of the various ways that vehicle rear seats could be optimized to protect kids too big for “add-on” child restraints. Unfortunately, tweens and young teens (who typically are out of boosters and using just the adult seatbelt) have much higher injury rates than the younger kids who can and do benefit from using a carseat or booster. I’d like to think we’ve made some good progress getting the message out about kids in the 4-8 age group needing an “add-on” CR but clearly something needs to be done to make the occupant restraint systems in the back seat more suitable for tweens and teens. Ideally, all kids should use a booster until they can pass the 5 Step Test  but that means keeping most 9, 10 and some 11 year olds in boosters. Sure, my almost 9 year still uses a booster and he will continue to do so until he passes the 5 Step Test in our vehicles but the reality is that almost none of his 3 grade classmates are still using a booster. I’m not sure why we’re failing so miserably at keeping kids in boosters until they are actually large enough to fit well in the adult seatbelt but all it takes is one quick look around your local elementary school parking lot to come to the conclusion that we are failing. Parents either aren’t getting the message or they are getting the message but ignoring it.

Anyhow, the injury rates according to 2007 data from the Partners for Child Passenger Safety study paint a very clear picture – injuries to kids in motor vehicle crashes increase with age:

4.5 injuries per 1,000 children for 0 to 3 years

7.0 for 4 to 8 years

15.5 for 9 to 12 years

20.6 for 13 to 15 years

“This is due in part to the different ways they are restrained at each age, where they sit and other crash characteristics. In addition, as children age, the vehicle’s rear seat and associated safety features may not be able to offer the optimal protection that younger occupants are provided by add-on restraints.”

I encourage everyone to actually download and read the entire report because there is a wealth of information in there on the subject that goes way beyond a simple blog or a comment shared on facebook. Back seat occupant protection seems to be the final frontier of vehicle safety and let’s be honest – there is a lot of room for improvement there!

Kristy Arbogast from CHOP has a wonderful blog “Putting the Rear Seat First” on the subject here:  http://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/putting-rear-seat-first?utm_source=Child+Passenger+Safety&utm_campaign=5262666229-CPS_Issue_Report_Rear_Seat4_26_2013&utm_medium=email#.UX6H5rWsiSo