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Safety Archive

Buckled Up, But Still in Danger!

So you’ve done the safest thing for your baby and bought one of CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats.  You’ve installed it correctly and buckled-up your child properly at the pickup line from daycare.  What’s next for your most precious cargo?  Take a few swigs from the container of vodka in the glove compartment to relax your nerves before the drive home?  Roll up the windows and smoke a celebratory cigarette in one hand as you drive away with your baby and pre-schooler in back?  Hand the crying infant a rattle comprised of a bottle of pills from mom’s purse?  Let your bored 4-year old play with the clever tools in a 24-function utility knife from dad’s pocket?  Sound silly?  Then why do so many people get their kids buckled-up, then proceed to pick up their cellphone and start dialing a call?  Even as they drive through the pick-up line with dozens of other kids running around!

It seems insane sometimes.  Watching erratic driving at schools, pediatrician’s office parking lots, near residential parks, you name it.  The reason is almost always the same.  The driver has a phone in one hand, held up to their ear, completely absorbed in conversation while they totally oblivious to others on the road. Maybe you’ve seen the unthinkable, too?  A teen driver with, like, both hands texting on the wheel.  Just sayin’! Or, the adult with a phone in one hand, and in the other hand is a cigarette, a sandwich or a hairbrush and barely the palm of one hand resting on top of the wheel.   OMG.  Some peeps are too important not to be multitasking.  Obviously.  I think to myself that they will have plenty of time for that other stuff in jail when the other unthinkable event happens.  For me, just the presence of my kids in back is enough to be considered distracted driving.  Apparently, it’s not enough for many people I see at school drop-offs and pick-ups.  KWIM?

In many states, there is now a deterrent.  New laws prevent the use of handheld phones entirely, just like many states that have enacted primary child passenger safety laws.  Buckle your 2-year old without a carseat or touch that phone while driving and you pay a fine if you are caught.   My state of Illinois enacted such a law this year.  It may seem harsh to some.  In some states where total cellphone bans apply only to young drivers, others may QQ that our teens are now being subject to nanny state restrictions.  Whatever.  To many parents and safety advocates, the real question is, “What exactly is so important that they are putting at risk their own life, the life of their children, their passengers, pedestrians and those in other vehicles?”  Srsly.  They can’t possibly wait 5 or 10 minutes to chat so they can safely drive home from their child’s school or other errand?  Really? What is preventing them from pulling over to the side of the road or into a parking space to send that text message?  Hashtag: Insanity.  Distracted Driving kills.  Ya Know?

We may never know the answer to why that call can’t wait.  Some people will continue to make very bad choices in all sorts of things.  And even if you avoid this risky behavior yourself, keep in mind that you’ve armed your teenager with a cellphone and the ability to drive a car, a weapon combination as lethal as any other!  IKR?  Those who have never raised a teen will lament that parents should just enforce adequate rules and discipline, but it doesn’t always work that easily in reality.  Perhaps they were perfect kids and have never experienced a typical teenager.  For those whose phone calls are too important to delay, or teens who will find a way make that call to their BFF regardless, there is a better way.  Hands-Free.  Many new cars have hands-free bluetooth interfaces, though these are often in pricey options packages.   While some studies have shown that simply talking on a call is dangerous, newer studies are showing that hands-free calling is at least a somewhat safer alternative, especially when you consider having to pickup the phone and dial a number.

New Federal Regulations Regarding LATCH Weight Limits – What Parents Need to Know

We’ve been waiting for clarification of this final ruling for an entire year and we’re just getting details this week – days shy of the Feb 27, 2014, implementation date. Many CPS Technicians and advocates have been aware that these changes were coming but we were also aware that there were petitions pending so we were all waiting for the final word from NHTSA. There was much speculation that implementation of these changes would be delayed or that NHTSA would increase the weight limits, but none of those things happened.

So… in a nut shell, here is what parents and caregivers need to know:

There are two changes to federal safety standards going into effect this week that will affect some carseats manufacturered on or after Feb 27, 2014. First is a new label requirement. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal – it actually is. NHTSA has ruled that carseats with a 5-point harness should not be installed using the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of your child and the carseat exceeds 65 lbs. In these cases, you should discontinue using the lower anchors in your vehicle to install your carseat and switch to a seatbelt installation instead when your child reaches a certain weight. The label will tell you at what point you should make that switch.

The concern is that the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle may not be strong enough to restrain a very heavy child in a very heavy carseat under severe crash loads. It makes sense – mass is mass regardless of whether it’s the mass of the child or the mass of the carseat. Both are going to exert forces on the lower LATCH anchor bars when they are loaded in a crash.

If your carseat was manufactured before Feb 27, 2014 and the 5-pt harness has a weight limit of more than 40 lbs. please check your carseat instruction manual for guidance on LATCH weight limits. There may or may not be limits listed  - Dorel and Evenflo don’t generally list LATCH weight limits but Graco and Britax do. Also check this link to find out if your vehicle manufacturer has LATCH weight limits

Since parents probably don’t know how much their carseat weighs, going forward NHTSA is going to require the carseat manufacturers to “do the math” for you if there is any chance that the combined total of kid weight and carseat weight may be more than 65 lbs. Many carseat manufacturers are already listing LATCH weight limits on their seats with high harness weight limits.  Pictured below is the current Chicco NextFit label. The NextFit is rated up to 65 lbs in the forward-facing position but it weighs almost 25 lbs. Therefore according to the NextFit instructions you must switch to a seatbelt installation (plus tether) once your child reaches 40 lbs.

Not all carseats will have LATCH weight limits but it will be the responsibility of the carseat manufacturer to list one if necessary. For example, Graco knows exactly how much each of their carseats weigh and they know the maximum weight limits on the 5-point harness for each of their seats too.

  • The Graco ComfortSport harness is only rated to 40 lbs. and the seat itself definitely doesn’t weigh more than 25 lbs. so the new label requirement doesn’t apply to this seat. You can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a ComfortSport without concern.
  • The Graco Classic Ride is rated up to 50 lbs. with the harness but the seat itself weighs less than 15 lbs. so once again – the new label requirement doesn’t apply here and you can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a Classic Ride.
  •  A bigger, heavier seat like the Graco Nautilus will require this new label that tells parents when to switch to a seatbelt installation. The 5-point harness on the Nautilus is rated up to 65 lbs. and the seat itself  weighs about 20 lbs. so the label will probably tell you to discontinue installation with the lower LATCH anchors and switch to installation with seatbelt (plus tether) once your child weighs 45 lbs.

It’s up to you to keep track of how much your child weighs and to make the switch to seatbelt plus tether once your child exceeds the listed LATCH weight limit. It’s important to point out that this new requirement addresses weight limits for the lower anchors in your vehicle but does NOT impose a weight limit on the tether anchor. This is important because we always want you to use the tether if a carseat is installed forward-facing in a seating position that has a designated tether anchor.

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Currently there are no infant (rear-facing only) carseats that are so heavy that they could exceed the new 65 lbs. combined LATCH weight limits.  So if you have a kid in a rear-facing only infant seat – don’t worry about these new limits.

However, there are a few exceptionally heavy convertible seats that also have high rear-facing weight limits and consumers who buy these seats (manufactured after 2/27/14) will find labels and instructions telling them what the LATCH weight limits are for rear-facing (and separately for forward-facing). Convertible seats that will be required to have rear-facing lower anchor weight limits will include Diono convertibles, Graco Smart Seat & Clek Foonf.  In some cases the rear-facing LATCH weight limit could be as low as 25 or 30 lbs. child weight.

The second change to federal safety standards that is also being implemented this week involves testing with the new 10 year old Hybrid III dummy. This dummy weighs about 78 lbs. and is 51″ tall. Any carseat manufactured after Feb 27, 2014 that has a 5-point harness rated beyond 65 lbs. will be required to fit this 10 yr old dummy and also be required to pass certain crash test performance standards using this dummy. Since the 10-yr-old dummy is huge – it won’t fit in most convertible seats, which is why you’ll see many carseat manufacturers backtracking on the maximum weight limits of their convertibles and some higher-weight combination seats too. Seats that may have been rated to 70 lbs. or higher in the past may now have a weight limit of 65 lbs. Some manufacturers have already backtracked to 65 lbs., others will be doing so shortly as the new requirements are phased in this week.

The Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will retain their 90 lb. harness weight limits as those seats are already tested with the 10 yr old dummy. We know Graco is working on a new Argos 80 (we reported on it from ABC) which will be taller than the current Argos 70 combination seat and will be reinforced to pass testing with the new dummy. When we have more details about other higher-weight harness combination seats, we will share them here.

10 year old Hybrid III dummy

 

Want to know more? Dive deeper with our 2nd article on the new LATCH limits.

Find out about recalls

IMG_0696 (2)Since last week’s Graco buckle recall, one of the big questions parents have been asking is, “How do I know if my child’s seat is part of a recall?”

The answer is: “Register your seat with the manufacturer, so they can contact you!”

Most manufacturers give you three ways to register a seat.

  1. Each seat comes with a postcard that is pre-printed with the seat’s model and serial number. Just fill in your own contact information, and stick it in the mail. The postage is prepaid!
  2. Click your way to the manufacturer’s website. You’ll need to have the model, serial number, and date of manufacture (DOM) handy. That info can be found on the postcard that came with the seat (assuming you haven’t mailed it in or lost it), or on stickers on the seat itself, and you’ll have to be careful to enter the numbers correctly.
  3. Call the toll-free number on the postcard or instruction manual. This option involves talking to a real, live person, after spending the requisite minutes on hold, but if you have any questions about your seat, you can get them answered at the same time. Once again, make sure you have the model, serial number and DOM in front of you before you call.

If you’ve moved since you first registered your seat, your best bet is to call the company to make sure the company still knows how to get ahold of you. 

By the way, this applies to more than just carseats! Almost all baby gear, from high chairs and swings to strollers and cribs, can be registered with the manufacturer, and doing so ensures that if there ever is a recall, you’ll find out about it. So, what are you waiting for? Send in that postcard!

Graco Recall Buckle Identification

The easiest way to know whether a 2009-2013 Graco convertible or combination seat is affected by this recent recall is by buckle identification.

If you own a Graco convertible or combination seat model with either of the recalled buckle styles shown below then your model is almost certainly recalled. If you registered your carseat by either mailing in the registration card or by filling out the online registration form then you should automatically receive your replacement buckles in the mail during the next few weeks. If you didn’t register your carseat or if you’re not sure – submit this form to order replacement buckles from Graco.

 

Graco Recall Buckle Identification