Resources Archive

Convertible Carseat Ratings – June 2015 Consumer Reports Update

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Britax Marathon ClickTight, Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Graco Contender 65 Score High Ratings for Convertible Carseats

CR rockIn June, Consumer Reports added new models to their convertible carseat ratings.  A few newly tested products did quite well, with the Britax Marathon ClickTight and Boulevard ClickTight topping the overall ratings.  The Graco Contender 65 also did quite well overall, just above its competitors in the budget “Best Buy” category of highly rated models.

With new weight limits on the LATCH system of attaching carseats, seatbelt installations are back, especially for heavier forward-facing children.  So, we love the ClickTight system for super easy seatbelt installs, and the Boulevard CT (Our Review) and Advocate CT also offer exceptional rear-facing height limits and appear in our Recommended Carseats list.   We also share concerns at Consumer Reports about a possible harness issue on certain ClickTight convertible models.  While new models are revised to address this concern, we still advise parents to check the harness system periodically to verify.

It’s important to point out that this round of ratings is based on crash test results using their previous testing methodology (30 mph, FMVSS 213 standard bench, testing with 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt or LATCH and no blocker plate). Convertible seat testing with their new crash test methodology is underway, but those results will not be published until some time later this year. For more info on Consumer Reports’ new crash testing program please see our previous blog on the subject:

The Safest Infant Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

Currently CR evaluates carseats on several points, including fit-to-vehicle, ease-of-usage, price and crash test performance. We can’t comment on specific scores but after our meeting with CR last year, we do have a general idea of how their ratings are assigned within these categories.

They break down the convertible carseat ratings into 3 categories:

  • Convertible seats rated to 40 lbs.
  • Convertible seats rated to weights higher than 40 lbs. (what we call “higher-weight harness” convertibles)
  • All-in-One seats that can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and also as a belt-positioning booster.

In the updated over 40 lbs. category, the Britax Marathon and Boulevard ClickTight models top the ratings, followed very closely by another of our Recommended Carseats, the Chicco NextFit.  After that, the rest of the Britax convertible lineup – Britax Advocate G4, Britax Boulevard G4, Britax Pavilion G4, Britax Marathon G4 and Britax Roundabout G4 all perform well. The Graco Contender 65Britax Roundabout G4 and the Evenflo SureRide were rated as “Best Buys” because they offer good value for their price but they also received good scores in all categories.  The Safety 1st Advance SE 65 was also added to the ratings with a very good crash protection score, but a middle-of-the-pack overall rating.

So, what is the “BEST” or “SAFEST” convertible carseat?  We are asked this all the time as Child Passenger Safety Technicians and it’s worth repeating the answer.  The BEST carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (installs tightly), fits your child (is appropriate for their age/weight/height), and that you can use correctly on every single ride. And of course it needs to fit your wallet too. The best carseat is not necessarily the most expensive carseat you can (or can’t) afford. And it’s not necessarily the carseat that matches the rest of your nursery collection or the one that everyone raves about online.  While no one can say which is the “SAFEST” carseat for any particular child or vehicle, if you’ve selected the “BEST” one for your own situation and install and use it correctly, then it will provide very good protection for your precious cargo.

While we think our Recommended Carseats list is a great place to start when shopping for the BEST carseat.  The seats on our list aren’t going to work for everyone and every situation. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your friend, and that’s important. For example, a loosely installed carseat or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for your child either.

The Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison – Size Matters!

You can find Consumer Reports’ newest ratings on convertible seats at their website, www.consumerreports.org. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to see the full ratings report.

Proper Installation of Convertible Carseat on an Ambulance Cot

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Convertible install ambulance cotSometimes, it’s the upside of a slow carseat check event – the opportunity to “play” with something new. On this particular warm, sunny, spring day – parents were obviously busy doing something other than coming to our well-publicized check event. That left us techs with a little free time. At one point, some of the volunteers from the local ambulance corp showed up and the conversation quickly turned to transport of non-critical pediatric patients in ambulances. I think I shocked a few of the techs when I admitted that I had never actually installed a carseat on an ambulance cot (What? Something involving carseats that Kecia has never done??? Alert the presses! Lol.) Yes, I understand how it’s supposed to be done. I’ve read the research papers and I’ve seen several presentations on the subject at various conferences over the years but I had never actually done it myself. Well, wouldn’t you know it – a short time later, an ambulance pulls up. Yes, boys and girls – it’s play time! 😀

It was actually a fairly simple install on this nice, new Stryker cot with this particular convertible (Cosco Scenera). For the record, the only type of conventional carseat that should be installed on an ambulance stretcher/cot is a convertible seat. You need to be able to secure the carseat on the cot using two different beltpaths and this is only possible if the carseat has separate beltpaths for the rear-facing and forward-facing positions – which convertible seats have. Obviously, this setup is only going to work if the child actually fits in the convertible (and that will vary depending on the specific convertible model being used) and if the child can tolerate being transported in the semi-upright position.

First they showed me how to raise the head of the cot until we had it flush against the back of the reclined Scenera. Then we routed the straps nearest the rear-facing beltpath thru that beltpath and routed the straps nearest the forward-facing beltpath thru that beltpath. We tightened everything up and Voila! Next, one of our local CPS techs strapped in our “non-critical pediatric patient” for good measure. Finally, the guys from the ambulance corps showed me how to load this particular stretcher into the ambulance and secure it.  I have to say, I was really impressed with this particular Stryker Powered Ambulance Cot. The hydraulic system was sweeeeet!

     

On this particular day, this exercise was all about learning something new in a relaxed and friendly environment. However, in reality, pediatric transport in an ambulance can range from “as safe as possible under difficult circumstances” to “downright scary for no good reason”. Why does it vary so much? Because currently there are no federal guidelines for pediatric transport in an ambulance. Therefore, EMS services are free to transport patients in any way they deem appropriate. Personally, I wouldn’t allow my children to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance unless they really needed to be attended to by a medic on the way there. Unconscious and not breathing? Massive head trauma? Aortic Rupture? Get my child into the ambulance fast and I’m not going to care or worry about how he’s restrained. Broken foot? Get in the car and I’m driving you to the hospital myself.

For more information on the subject see “Crash Protection for Children in Ambulances”: http://www.carseat.org/Resources/Bull_Ambulance.pdf

Clek Fllo & Graco Contender Added to our Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison!

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Our Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison is one of our most popular reference articles and I’m pleased to report that we’ve updated it again to include space grades and data for the Clek Fllo and Graco Contender. All in all, there are now over 30 higher-weight convertible seats that have been evaluated and graded in our comparison!

Clek Fllo with ARB - RF space comparison Graco Contender - RF space comparison 2

As we pointed out in the original article – there are so many variables that go into every carseat/vehicle compatibility scenario that it’s impossible to accurately predict which seat is going to take up the least amount of room rear-facing in *your* vehicle. The complexity of the situation is amplified by the plethora of options and features available on various convertibles. Still, it was our intention here at CarseatBlog to put together a comprehensive comparison that would serve as a resource for parents and caregivers searching for an extended-use convertible that would keep their rear-facing toddler or older child safe and comfortable without sacrificing the safety and comfort of the driver and/or front seat passenger.

See all the data and ratings here:

http://carseatblog.com/22818/the-ultimate-rear-facing-convertible-space-comparison-review-size-matters/

New Jersey Updates Child Restraint Laws – Increases Minimum Age For Forward-Facing

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On May 7, 2015, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that amended NJ’s child restraint law. This new law takes effect on September 1, 2015.

We know that legal jargon is very confusing so here is the updated New Jersey carseat and booster seat law in plain English:

Children under the age of 8 (through age 7) are legally required to ride in the back seat* as follows:

  • Under age 2 (0-23 months) and weighing less than 30 pounds are required to use a rear-facing carseat with a 5-point harness. This means a convertible used in the rear-facing position or an infant seat. (Note: Most babies will outgrow an infant carrier before their 2nd birthday and will need to transition to a convertible seat used in the rear-facing position. Unless you start off with a convertible seat from birth and then there is no need to transition to a bigger rear-facing seat.)

Graco SnugRide 40  Evenflo Triumph ProComfort - RF Toddler

  •  Age 2 through age 3 (24-47 months) secured in a carseat with 5-point harness either rear-facing (until reaching the weight or height limit) or forward-facing. Having a 3-year-old in just a booster seat is not legal unless they weigh more than 40 lbs.

Diono-Rainier-Clara  Nautilus2

  • Age 4 through age 7 (48 months until 8th birthday) and less than 57 inches tall (4’9″) secured in a forward-facing carseat with 5-point harness or a booster seat. There is no weight requirement in this updated law – only age and height requirements. (Note: If you have an older child who weighs more than 80 lbs. and you’re having a hard time finding a booster seat that they actually still fit in – consider a Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioner. It’s specifically designed for bigger, older kids.)

Evenflo SK Platinum - harness Jon Turtle Booster Evenflo Amp

  • Age 8 through 17 shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt

Passing the 5 Step Test

Exemptions:

* If there are no rear seats (e.g., standard cab pickup truck), the child shall be secured in a carseat or booster in the front passenger seat except that no child shall be secured in a rear-facing carseat in the front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled or turned off.

Full text of the new law can be found here: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A3500/3161_R1.PDF