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Take Back Your Drive


640px-Cell_phone_use_while_drivingApril is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the National Safety Council wants you to “Take Back Your Drive.” What does that mean? It means you do a little something for yourself while you’re driving: You give yourself the gift of safety.

The NSC is urging people to focus on being less distracted. By now we all know it’s bad to text and talk on hand-held phones, but more than 30 studies have shown that hands-free devices are just as bad—and might even be worse. Here are some interesting facts:

  • Drivers talking on hands-free devices can fail to see 50% of their surroundings
  • Activity in the part of the brain that detects movement decreases by 1/3 when listening or talking on the distracted drivingphone (hands-free or hand-held)
  • Hands-free features in dashboards can increase distraction
  • Using voice-to-text features can be more distracting than typing them, in part because of frustration with the feature “hearing” things incorrectly

The NSC says that people believe hands-free systems must be safe if they’re built into cars, but the reality is that they’re not. The organization is urging people to take its Focused Driver Challenge, which includes pledging not to have any phone conversations in the car, not to send texts by typing or dictating them, and not to enter GPS destinations while the car is moving, among other things.

You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can go a long way in making yourself and your family safer by being the best driver you can be.

Extended Rear-Facing Recommendations Updated


IMG_1135Nearly all current convertibles will keep most kids rear-facing to 2 years old (the minimum recommend age to turn forward-facing). But if you want to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, we have some recommendations for you.

We’ve recently updated our list of “Super Extended” Rear-Facing Seats to include relative newcomers like the Britax Boulevard ClickTight and the Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air.

We have also updated our list of Best Convertible Seats for Extended Rear-Facing to include the new Graco Extend2Fit.  Stay tuned for our full review of the E2F!

Check them out to find the seat that’s right for you!

If you need more information on why you should keep your child rear-facing, you can check our post on Why Rear-Facing is Better.

Worried that a rear-facing seat would be hard to fit in your vehicle? We have a comprehensive Space-Saving Guide that compares how much room convertible seats take up. Many are very compact and are great for smaller back seats.

You don’t need to keep your kids rear-facing through college, but rear-facing them through at least a good chunk of preschool is easy to do!

Don’t Sing and Drive?


While doing research on distracted driving, I came across some articles about the dangers—or lack thereof—of singing while driving.

Honestly, listening to music or singing while driving wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about. Sure, I tend to turn off/down my music when I’m in dangerous road conditions or trying to navigate a tricky situation. I make sure not to play my music so loudly that I can’t hear sirens. But I’d never considered whether the music itself was dangerous.

Yet an Australian study found that people singing along to music are more likely to vary their speed and less likely to notice peripheral distractions. There was even a negative effect when people were just listening, not singing along.

However a British study showed that people who listen to music in the car might actually be safer. They’re less likely to fall asleep, they do a better job staying in their lane, and they tend to feel calmer. The study did find, though, that people listening to music took longer to respond to hazards in front of them.

The type of music might make a difference. “Hardcore” music tended to make people tense up, while pop and acoustic had the best results.

Given that somewhat contradictory information, what’s the bottom line? Does music make you a better driver or a more dangerous one? Probably neither.

I couldn’t find the actual Australian and British studies (just articles about them), but I did find a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that showed…listening to the radio had almost no impact on safety. It did create a negligible increase in cognitive distraction, but significantly less than the distraction caused by talking to a passenger or talking on the phone.

The good news is you can probably keep listening to your music. Just use common sense and listen responsibly.

2017 GMC Acadia Preview


AcadiaCarseatBlog recently got back from the Chicago Auto Show, and one of the vehicles we took a look at was the redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia.

We’ve done reviews of the 2011/12 Buick Enclave and 2013 Chevy Traverse, sister vehicles of the Acadia. Those versions had great crash ratings and worked well with car seats, making them a good choice for families.

With the 2017 redesign, the Acadia will become even more family-friendly.

First, they’ve added some important safety features like lane departure warning and assist, front pedestrian braking, automatic forward braking (available on some models), and front- and rear-parking assist. There are also four cameras that combine to give a 360-degree view around the car.

Specifically for families and caregivers, GMC has added a feature to prevent children from being accidentally left in the car. How it works is that a system activates when the rear doors are opened and closed within 10 minutes of the ignition turning on. Once the driver arrives at his/her destination and turns off the car, a light and sound reminds the driver that something (or someone) might be in the back seat.

As far as we know, this is the first system put in place by an automaker to help prevent children from being left in cars, and we’re happy to see GMC being proactive in that regard.

The Acadia will also have GM’s Teen Driver features, which aim to help teens drive more safely and give parents insight into their children’s driving habits. Teen Driving automatically mutes the radio until the driver (and, if applicable, front passenger) have buckled their seatbelts. It also lets parents set a maximum volume for the radio, and parents can set maximum speeds that, if exceeded, will result in visual and audible warnings for the driver. Parents can also review their teen’s drive to see how far and how fast they went.

Non-safety features, but ones that are nice for families anyway, include five USB charging ports, including two in the third row. Fold-flat seats in the second and third row provide for lots of cargo room, and the second-row seats can slide forward with a car seat installed for easy third row access.

We also liked the custom-fit weather mat available for the third row of the Acadia. It folds with the seat so you don’t need to add/remove anything when you put the third row up or down. Even better, it has cut-outs for tether anchor access. (It’s the little things.)

The 2017 GMC Acadia will be available this spring. We hope to have a full review of it soon.