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Carseat Check Events – The Pre-Check Meeting for CPS Technicians and Instructors

Carseat Check EventIt’s the day of the big carseat check event. The traffic cones are out, the updated recall lists have been printed and the LATCH Manuals are ready for action. But wait! Before those parents and caregivers begin to arrive – it’s time to gather your technicians for a quick briefing. This may be the most important 10 minutes of the whole event so don’t skip it. The pre-check meeting will outline expectations, procedures and protocols. In short, the pre-check meeting sets the tone for the entire event.

Each event coordinator has different expectations and pre-check meetings can vary widely. However, here is a general list of what I expect of the technicians who work events with me:

  • Always encourage best practice recommendations. If you don’t give the parents or caregivers the information then you’re essentially taking away their ability to make informed choices. However, don’t be judgmental and respect the parent or caregiver’s choices as long as they are legal.
  • Read the CR instruction manuals or look them up (online or DVD from Safety Belt Safe, USA)
  • Ask the parent “tell me what you know about this seat”. It’s a great place to start and they might teach you something you didn’t already know.
  • Look up every vehicle in the current edition of the LATCH Manual. It only takes 30 seconds and you’ll never know what you might find unless you actually look.
  • Teach parents how to secure the carseat with their vehicle seatbelt system even if the carseat is currently being installed with LATCH. It’s probably the only opportunity they’ll ever get to understand how the seatbelts in their vehicle lock for proper installation of a carseat.
  • Higher-weight harness seats – must check LATCH limits and note the info for parents.
  • Inform parents of the most appropriate “next step” for the child.
  • Don’t forget to ask “who else rides in this vehicle?”
  • Have parents do final install (or at least help).
  • Document EVERYTHING! Especially any “tough choices” made by parent/caregiver. Make sure you note in your paperwork that parent did final install, how the CR was secured in the vehicle and that education was provided.
  • No vehicle leaves without a second set of eyes (experienced) checking it over!

REMINDER – if the carseat or infant seat base has a lockoff device, you should use it for installations with seatbelt unless there is some compelling reason not to do so. Generally speaking, if using the lockoff – do NOT switch the retractor to locked (ALR) mode. Check carseat owner’s manual for details. Note: in these cases it is recommended that you show parents how the switchable retractor works anyway – in case their next carseat does not have a lockoff.

REMINDER – all vehicles made after 1996 have seatbelts that pre-crash lock in some way. Most lap/shoulder belts have switchable retractors but if you encounter a lap/shoulder belt in a vehicle made after 1996 that has an ELR retractor only (it doesn’t “switch”) then you probably have a locking latchplate. Locking latchplates aren’t always obvious and there are many different versions. Test the latchplate by buckling yourself in the seatbelt and pulling up on the lap belt portion of the belt. If it’s cinched and doesn’t loosen when you pull up on it – you have a locking latchplate.

Carseat Check Road SignThere are other protocols in place regarding CR replacement, technician to vehicle ratios, verification of installs for tech recertification, etc., but those vary from check to check depending on the circumstances.  Safe Kids coalitions have specific protocols that must be followed at all events but for those CPS programs (like mine), that are not affiliated with Safe Kids - it’s really up to the person in charge to make sure that the necessary resources are available and the CPS Techs staffing the event are all on the same page.

2015 Britax G4.1 Convertibles and ClickTight Convertibles Comparison

Britax logo Greetings from the ABC Kids Expo! We knew our readers would be interested in comparison photos of the 2015 Britax G4.1 convertibles and the new ClickTight convertibles.

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G4.1 Convertible Updates: 

Lower LATCH anchor limits will change

  • Roundabout G4.1, Marathon G4.1 and Blvd G4.1 – Rear-facing up to 40 lbs. (unchanged from current G4 models); Forward-facing up to 50 lbs. with LATCH (after that you must use seatbelt to install seat)
  • Advocate G4.1 - Rear-facing up to 40 lbs (unchanged from current G4 models); Forward-facing up to 45 lbs. with LATCH (after that you must use seatbelt to install seat)

SafeCell branding: Roundabout & Marathon will be “Complete”; Boulevard “Complete Plus”; Advocate “Complete Max”

Shorter tether strap length (extenders will be available for rare cases where strap isn’t long enough to reach tether anchor)

Boulevard G4.1 and Boulevard ClickTight:

Pictured below are the 2015 Britax Boulevard G4.1 (red) and the new Britax Boulevard ClickTight (green).

Britax G4 and ClickTight  Britax G4 vs ClickTight front

Britax G4 vs ClickTight back to back  Britax G4 vs ClickTight side

Britax G4 vs ClickTight top 2  Britax G4 vs ClickTight top

As you can see the shape of the shell is different but overall the new ClickTight Boulevard isn’t wider than the current Boulevard G4 model.

Quick Comparison of G4, G4.1 and ClickTight Specs:

All Britax convertibles (G4, G4.1 and CT models) are rated from 5-40 lbs. rear-facing

G4 and G4.1 models are outgrown rear-facing by height once the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the shell (not the headwings)

All ClightTight models are outgrown rear-facing by height once the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the headwings (Note: Boulevard  CT and Advocate CT models are taller than the Marathon CT model)

All Britax convertibles (with the exception of Roundabout) are rated from 20-65 forward-facing and up to 49″ tall.

ClightTight models have taller top harness slots than G4 and G4.1 models.

Finally, an update to our earlier previews with a forward-facing ClickTight installation.  (Rear-facing install shown in our previews linked below)

For more detailed info on the new ClightTight convertibles see our comprehensive Boulevard CT review and our previous posts on the subject:

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Review – Sometimes Things Just Click

Rear-Facing Space Comparison: Britax G4 Convertibles vs. New Britax ClickTight Convertibles

Order Britax ClickTight convertibles at Amazon.com

Order Britax ClickTight convertibles at Albee Baby

Rear-Facing Space Comparison: Britax G4 Convertibles vs. New Britax ClickTight Convertibles

Today we wrapped up the 10th annual Kidz in Motion (KIM) Conference in beautiful, sunny, New Mexico. It was another great conference and a good time was had by all. While I was here I had the opportunity to do some comparison testing of the current G4 Britax convertible models and the brand new Britax ClickTight convertibles that now available for pre-order. I was particularly interested in seeing how the seats compared side-by-side when installed rear-facing.

The vehicle used for this comparison was a 2014 Dodge Charger. Both the driver seat and the front passenger seat were set in the same positions at the same recline angle in order to accurately compare how much room each seat took up while rear-facing. On one side we installed the Britax Boulevard G4, on the other side we installed the new Britax Boulevard ClickTight. Both seats were installed with seatbelt.

Britax Blvd G4 and Blvd CT

Since the new ClickTight convertible models have 7 recline positions that can be used to achieve an appropriate recline, I took several different measurements so you can have an idea of how these new seats will fit rear-facing in backseats as compared with the Britax G4 convertible models which have a reputation for fitting exceptionally well in tight spaces.

Installed at a recline angle appropriate for a newborn or young baby with the headrest in a low height setting- the Boulevard ClickTight model took up approximately 3/4 of an inch (.75″) more room than the G4 model did. That’s still better (space wise) than most other convertibles currently on the market.

Rear-Facing As Long As Possible: What Does It Mean? Part II

A continuation from Part I.

So what does “Rear-Facing As Long As Possible” mean for most parents today?

The answer is going to vary from one parent to the next but it’s important to ask yourself that question! What does rear-facing for as long as possible mean to YOU?

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Here at CarseatBlog, we’re parents too and we all have older kids so we’ve been around this RF/FF block a few times. These are a few basic DOs and DON’Ts to help guide you:

1. DO transition to a rear-facing convertible seat once the infant seat is outgrown.

Rear-facing-only seats (aka infant seats or “buckets”) tend to be outgrown by 6-18 months depending on the model you have and the weight/size of your baby. If you start off with a rear-facing-only seat – don’t move your child into a forward-facing seat once the infant seat is outgrown. The next step is a convertible seat installed in the rear-facing position. Different convertible seats have different features and different weight and height limits. Make sure you educate yourself so you don’t wind up with buyers remorse down the road. Our list of Recommended Carseats is a great place to start researching.  

SR35 in 2008 Honda Civic

Time to move to a rear-facing convertible!

2. DO set goals for rear-facing. 

At a minimum, aim to keep your child rear-facing until at least their second birthday. Rear-facing is much safer for children 12-23 months and CarseatBlog fully endorses the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy on extended rear-facing. In some cases, thinking about rear-facing until age 3, 4 or 5 may be too much for a parent with a younger child to commit to – especially if extended rear-facing (ERF) is a foreign concept. Setting an attainable goal, like RF until 24 months, is a great place to start. Once your toddler reaches 24 months you can re-evaluate the situation and adjust your goals if you want to do that.  Evenflo Triumph ProComfort - RF Toddler

3. DO educate yourself on “Best Practice” and the protective benefits of rear-facing in a crash.

“Best Practice” is the gold standard of protection (while following the manufacturer instructions). It’s the safest way to transport a child based on their age, weight, height and developmental levels. Ideally, kids should remain rear-facing until they reach either the maximum weight limit or the maximum height limit of their convertible seat (whichever happens first). Many of the convertible carseats on the market today will accommodate kids rear-facing beyond 24 months but there are always exceptions for the biggest toddlers and/or smaller carseats with lower weight and/or height limits. Be aware that there is a good chance that whatever convertible seat you purchase will actually allow forward-facing after 1 year old as long as the FF weight minimum (usually 20 or 22 lbs.) is met but forward-facing before age 2 is NOT recommended if you can avoid it. See Why Rear-Facing is Better: Your RF Link Guide

Kecia's DS2 rear-facing at 3 years old and 33 lbs

4. DON’T pick a carseat based solely on rear-facing weight and height limits. Do your research!

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 with the highest weight and/or height limits on the market. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your online friend, and that’s important. For example, a carseat that doesn’t install tightly in your vehicle or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that can accommodate your child rear-facing until age 5 but doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for you either.

 

So what does “Rear-Facing As Long As Possible” mean for advocates and certified child passenger safety technicians?

In the technician certification course, we learn that rear-facing carseats protect the vulnerable head, neck and spine in a frontal crash by distributing the forces of the crash across the entire head and body. “It is the shell of the rear-facing carseat that absorbs the forces of the crash.” We factually present this information to parents the way it was presented to us. By doing so, it informs and empowers the parent to make educated decisions for their children. The more accurate information they have about the research and available products, the better able they are to make an educated choice. Some carseats, like the Graco Size4Me 65, offer exceptional rear-facing height limits at around $150. The Chicco NextFit has a great balance of rear-facing height and weight limits and works well in small spaces, too. We recently posted a list of a few other super extended rear-facing models that have exceptional weight or height limits.

Weight and height limits are not the only important boundaries for techs. For example, to suggest that it is bad parenting or even dangerous to turn a child forward-facing when allowed by the owner’s manual usually crosses one such line. We also shouldn’t be telling parents to buy ONLY carseats with exceptionally high rear-facing limits. Many can’t afford some of these options, so we need to be sensitive to a parent’s preferences, intentions and budget. For example, telling them they have to buy an expensive new rear-facing carseat for a child that is already 2 or 3 years of age may not be appropriate, especially if it is out of their budget or difficult for them to install or use correctly.

Technicians and advocates do need to be aware of best practice to encourage parents to keep their kids as safe as possible. Equally important is to synthesize all the information and then convey it to caregivers in a manner that is both welcomed and understandable. It’s not only WHAT you teach a parent, but HOW you teach them that is critical to having them keep their child as safe as possible. Promoting Extended Rear-Facing is very admirable, but crossing the line to overzealous or antagonistic messages will only cause parents to dismiss our advice altogether, and that is contrary to all the advocacy work we have done in the last 10+ years!

Ten Years Ago: Rear-Facing at 3.5 years old in a Britax Wizard

Finally, we also recognize that smaller convertible carseats may still be a very good choice for many kids. A prime example? The Cosco Scenera. The $39 price tag at Walmart makes it accessible to millions of families and it has been a safe and highly regarded carseat for over a decade. There’s also the Britax Roundabout G4 at $144 that tends to be easier to install and use than average and fits well in smaller vehicles, too. The Evenflo SureRide is another budget-friendly model for around $99 that offers good rear-facing height and weight limits. All three were recently rated as “Best Buys” by a leading consumer magazine.

In addition to our Recommended Rear-Facing Carseats, be sure to see our Rear-Facing Link Guide and our commentary on Rear-Facing Until 2 Years Old.

Additionally, our Rear-Facing Convertible Space Comparison blog and our list of Rear-Facing Convertible Measurements, Height & Weight Limits can be very helpful resources if you are in the market for a new convertible.