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New Type of Crash Test

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!

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.

Lifesavers Conference 2012 Wrap-Up

It was another great year for Lifesavers and this one was special because it was the 30th Anniversary!  Needless to say, a lot has changed and much progress has been made in the last three decades but everyone involved in Child Passenger Safety and in other traffic safety issues knows that there is still so much more to be done.  I always leave the conference with renewed passion and enthusiasm (and no voice from talking all day, and a hangover from excessive good times with great people… but I digress). Lol.

 

I posted some tidbits and updates on the previous Lifesavers blog.  Here is the rest of the news and updates:

 

TrueFit: Original C630 model is already discontinued. Recline model is being discontinued. Only the Premier model with anti-rebound bar will be available going forward. Head wings have been redesigned to be deeper and more contoured. New C680 model with redesigned headwings will be available on Amazon starting in mid July. Coming in Fall 2012 is the new C685 IAlert TrueFit model.  I predict this technology is going to be the start of something very big in this industry. Parents are busier (and more distracted) than ever before and this innovative technology addresses several key areas of concern. I saw the full demo and was very impressed!

  

 

 

Merritt Manufacturing (for children with special healthcare needs):  Prototype rear-facing only seat for children with omphalocele. While the condition can range in size and severity – the intestines and sometimes the liver and spleen protrude outside the baby’s body. About 1 in 10,000 births result in some form of an omphalocele and about 25 to 40% of infants with an omphalocele have other birth defects as well. The condition is most often surgically corrected before age 2. Please keep in mind that this is a prototype and changes will likely be made before the seat is eventually released. No word on when it might be available but they’re working on it.

    

Also coming soon from Merritt – a secure travel containment system for all the monitors and medical devices that often need to accompany babies and children with special healthcare needs. The device securely contains monitors, (2) oxygen canisters, suction devices, etc., and the entire contraption is secured on the floor of the vehicle via 4 points of attachment. A fantastic idea and something that is greatly needed!

  

 

Graco: They’re going back and looking at the Size4Me 40” rear-facing height maximum. No promises of any changes but they’re talking internally about what the concerns are and what the other options might be. We promise to keep you posted if we hear of any changes. New Turbo with Safety Surround is very nice. Base is exactly the same as the original model. Both EPS and EPP foam are used in the back and head wings portion (in different places). Placing the EPP on the outside of the torso wings was deliberate. Its purpose is to absorb some of the energy that occurs when the booster contacts the vehicle door or the intruding object during a side-impact crash. In this area, placing the EPP on the outside provides more benefit than putting it inside the shell.

 

Mercury Distributing (Institutional Sales for CPS Programs): They now carry the Cosco Apt, Safety 1st Avenue and Comfy Carry Elite Plus! Hopefully they will carry the new Dorel Topside LBB too in the near future.

 

Evenflo – I already covered most of the big Evenflo news in my previous blog but here are a few more pics and a little more info on the new Sure Ride/Titan 65 convertible. Sure Ride/Titan65 will be rated to 40 lbs RF and from 22-65 FF. It should be available by September and will make its way to  Canada also (but the U.S. will get it first).  New Chase model (based on the Maestro) will replace the existing Chase model and will be sold at Walmart. 22-40 lbs only with 5-pt harness. New Triumph 65 will have improved harness adjuster mechanism. Momentum is being phased out. Lots of nice new fashions coming soon! I <3 the red and gray Symphony65 e3!

          

 

Dorel: Full range of current products were on display (everything from Comfy Carry to Pria70) and we had a nice long talk about anything and everything . No news to report ATM but we hope to have something to share on the new Maxi-Cosi Prezi infant seat soon.

 

GM new front seat center airbag. Extremely cool technology. And they’ve tested the hell out of it to make sure that there aren’t going to be any unintended negative consequences or interactions with child restraints secured in the rear center seating position. They even tested with a RF Britax convertible tethered Swedish style and found no issues. These airbags will be standard on all 2013 Buick Enclave models and standard on ’13 GMC Acadia and ’13 Chevy Traverse models with power front seats. Acadia and Traverse models with manual front seats will not have the center airbag.

    

With Love (& Pictures) from Lifesavers Orlando!

I arrived in hot and muggy Florida today. Woohoo!  Just a quick update on some of the things I learned and saw today. More updates to follow tomorrow.

 

Britax G3 Convertibles: New belly pad holds the buckle forward for loading and unloading. New HUGS pads have energy absorbing properties.  HUGS are attached via a piece of thin webbing to back of shell so they maintain proper positioning. HUGS are still optional for RF children. New chest clip. Due to new HUGS attachment system you need to grab the harness at the chest clip and pull to loosen harness straps.

Cool new Britax vehicle seat protector mat is made of an awesome thin flexible rubber material. I love it! I want one to put under my slob of a teenage son in our vehicle. Lol.

        

 

Evenflo Updates:

New mini push-on LATCH connectors (same as new connectors being used by Graco) will be available on Embrace 35 soon and eventually on the Secure Kid 300 too.

Boosters now have 110 lbs wt max and a 4 year age minimum

New Titan 65/Sure Ride convertible: Price will vary from $79 – $99 depending on fashion and trim level. I forget when it’s going to be available but will find out tomorrow and post more details. 6 sets of harness slots. Bottom slots measured around 6.5″  with bottom insert cushion. Top harness slots (without insert) measured around 19″. EPS foam.

New HBB with activity lights coming soon (available exclusively at Walmart) – based on Amp.

Discovery has a new handle coming soon! Goodbye Z handle! Hello normal handle with forward handle position. It’s not enough to make me actually like the Discovery but it’s still progress and I’ll take it! :)

                  

 

Combi: Nothing new to report ATM. I pleaded for some new fashions for Coccoro but nothing coming anytime soon. Oh, I almost forgot. Kobuk HBB is now rated to 125 lbs.

 

Clek: Snowberry Foonf and Saddle Oobr are here but there is no “new” news to report.

 

Bubble Bum: Best laugh of the day! Meet “Mr. BubbleBum”. He’s totally far out and groovy!

 

Day 2 updates and photos are posted HERE.

Upcoming Midsize 3-row SUVs from the Chicago Auto Show

 

We’ve reviewed a number of 3-row crossover SUVs in the last year or so.  Coming soon we will also be reviewing the Mazda CX-9 and, hopefully, the Ford Explorer with inflatable seatbelts as well as the Dodge Durango.  Those models are already on showroom floors, but there are a couple more that should appear later in 2012.  The refreshed 2013 Ford Flex and the all-new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.

The Flex gets some new styling, new power rear seating options and an active collision avoidance system in top trim levels.

 

The Pathfinder switches from a truck-based chassis to a unibody crossover SUV.  It touts more interior space than its predecessor and a tilt-forward second row seat that allows access to the third row without uninstalling a child safety seat.

We hope to review both of these new models later this year!

In other news, the GMC Acadia Denali gets a refresh this fall for 2013.  Said to be included is a front seat middle airbag that deploys between the driver and front seat passenger.

 

Finally, according to Ford reps at the auto show, the 3-row Ford C-Max Grand will not be coming to the USA in the near future.  Instead, I was told that only the 5-passenger C-Max Energi hybrid line will debut this fall.  Sad news for those looking for an alternative to the fuel-efficient Mazda5.  Also, in minivan news, it sounds like there will not be a new Kia Sedona for 2013 as some had expected.  All the other minivans are recently refreshed or re-designed, so don’t expect much on the minivan front for 2013!